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The Role of Cotton in the 1800 Economy

Introduction Cotton became a desirable commodity in the 1800s because products such as tobacco were exhausting farmlands and losing their value. The cotton economy in the 19th century benefited several stakeholders, and they include; plantati...Read More

~Posted on Mar 2018

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Introduction Cotton became a desirable commod...

The Role of Cotton in the 1800 Economy


Cotton became a desirable commodity in the 1800s because products such as tobacco were exhausting farmlands and losing their value. The cotton economy in the 19th century benefited several stakeholders, and they include; plantation owners, banks, shipping traders, and the clothing industry of the Great Britain. It  transformed the economy of United States of America, and  impacted the history of U.S. (Gates, 2013).

Economy of cotton and slavery

In this case, the fertile land located in the Deep South, i.e., from Georgia to Texas became extremely valuable. Increased growth of cotton brought about an increased need for slaves. Cotton production was a labor- demanding business, which needed a large number of workers to cultivate and harvest the product.  Thus, millions of slaves from Africa and upper south were forcefully taken to the Deep South for cotton production. It was the second biggest forced immigration in the history of the United States of America (Gates, 2013).

Demand for cotton

Unemployed undergraduate known as Eli Whitney invented a cotton gin in 1793. The machine helped in cleaning cotton and separating seeds from the fiber. Manufacturers created similar cotton gin, which resulted in a boom in cotton production in the United States of America. In this regard, the production of cotton grew from 156,000 bales in the year 1800 to 4 million bales in the year 1860. The cotton immense increase led to the increased demand for slaves in the U.S. In this case, the number rose from 700,000 in the year 1790 to 4,000,000 in 1860.  By the year 1860, the world’s most powerful nation, the Great Britain had become the origin of the industrial revolution. The major industry in the country was the cotton textiles. Out of 21 million of Britain’s total population, approximately 4 million depended on the cotton textile industry. About 40% of the nation’s exports were cotton fabrics. Britain obtained 75% of the total amount of cotton from the United States of America. Thus, cotton played a crucial role in the economy of America. North Douglas, a Nobel- prize winner affirmed that cotton was the major cause of America’s economic expansion in the 19th Century. Between 1800 and 1860, over half of the United States’ exports comprised of cotton. The cotton market enabled America to borrow funds from overseas. It also cultivated an enormous local trade between the Eastern and Western side of the nation, and, therefore, strengthening the bond of the United States (Dattel, 2000).

                                    Mississippi recognition

            Mississippi State obtained its world’s recognition through the cotton economy in the 1800s. In the first half of the 19th century, the world perceived Mississippi as the epicenter of cotton production. The state was influenced by the increased demand for cotton in Europe, and the commercial and financial dealings of New York. The cotton and slave labor in Mississippi State played an essential role in the determination of its economic and social histories (Dattel, 2000).

Cotton and population

Between 1817 and 1860, the state of Mississippi became the most vibrant and the largest cotton producer in the U.S. The increased production of cotton resulted in an increase in the state’s population. The population of the Caucasians grew from 5179 in the year 1800 to 353, 901 in the year 1860. In addition, the population of slaves rose from 3489 in 1800 to 436,631 in 1860. The production of cotton in Mississippi immensely increased from zero in 1800 to 535.1 million pounds worth the product in the year 1859. Mississippi and the neighboring states’- Western Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Texas offered cheap land for the production of cotton. Cotton attracted thousands of Caucasian men from North America, and individuals from states situated along the Atlantic coast, who were interested in making a quick fortune. In 1950, 25% of the total population in Louisiana and New Orleans was from the North and 10% of Alabama’s population was from New York State (Dattel, 2000).


Cotton production and slave labor had an immense impact on the history of America. However, the civil war in America led to the end of slave labor. Even after liberation, the black Americans were still recognized with the production of cotton. Additionally, Mississippi State is still recognized globally as a major contributor of the cotton economy. Besides, the Great Britain influenced continents such as Asia to manufacture clothing textiles. 


Dattel, E. R. (2000). Cotton in a global economy: Mississippi (1800-1860). Retrieved from


Gates, H. L. (2013). The cotton economy and slavery. Retrieved from


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