17th July 2024

From ‘qutun’ to cotton: The journey



Cotton gets its name from the Arabic word ‘qutun’, which means fine textile or fabric. Archaeologists have found samples of cotton fabric, as old as 7000 years, at the sites of ancient civilizations, such as Mohenjo Daro, Egypt, and Mexico. Nonetheless, it is difficult to determine the exact period or place when cotton was first used for fabric. Around 2500 BC, Indus Valley civilization had begun cultivating cotton. The oldest cotton balls, discovered in Mexican caves, date back to 5500 BC. Cotton cloths have also been found in graves at ancient burial sites during certain excavations.

In the Middle Ages, the Arabs introduced cotton into Europe. When Columbus landed in America, he mistook that he had reached India when he saw the natives covered in colorful cotton clothes. As the textile industry flourished with the Industrial Revolution, cotton helped to strengthen the grips of colonization. The British Empire obtained raw materials from India, Australia and America.

With the advent of the World Wars, the demand for British cotton cloths declined substantially. As individual nations took up textile manufacturing, cotton industry shifted from Western Empires to lower-wage countries. Today, major cotton production takes place in countries like India, Bangladesh, China, and Latin America.

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