Sven Beckert is Laird Bell Professor of History at Harvard University. He researches and teaches the history of 19th century America and specialises in the history of capitalism in all its economic, social and political dimensions. His book Empire of Cotton, A New History of Global Capitalism, a colourful and comprehensive historiography that explains that cotton was the driving force behind the industrial revolution of the 19th century, was published in 2014. The prosperity in the cotton industry was closely linked to the arrival of modern capitalism. The great gains that were achieved with this raw material resulted in an ongoing struggle between slaves, planters, tradesmen, politicians, workers and manufacturers. The trade also resulted in a major increase in prosperity, but also shocking economic inequality. Capitalism was radically transformed by the cotton industry in a very short period of time. In Empire of Cotton, Sven Beckert explains how significant this revolution has been for the world we live in today. In 2015 the book was tipped by the De Wereld Draait Door Book Panel and received rave reviews.
“It makes Empire of Cotton a unique book, an achievement that will never been equalled. It is a monument to what greedy regimes, slave drivers and cynical manufacturers have done to the world.” Marcel Hulspas in De Volkskrant.