“It was not just the land, it was not just the seeds, it was not just the tools, it was not just the transportation infrastructure. You had to have somebody who did all the digging, and the harvesting, and the taking care of the cotton plant. In the United States that had been resolved through enslaving Africans.” -Sven Beckert
Cotton. Not quite a food item, but a plant nonetheless with a rather complicated history and an enduring relevance in our lives. Today, a typical day cannot pass without using this pillowy crop that rules our commodified lives.
In this edition of The Secret Ingredient with Raj Patel, Tom Philpott, and Rebecca McInroy: Sven Beckert, Harvard University professor, historian, and author of the 2014 book “Empire of Cotton,” discusses the significance of cotton as the most important commodity of the 19th century, as well as the violent history cotton production has in the Southern United States, and most importantly the pivotal role cotton plays in the enterprise of capitalism we know today.
We ‘d also like to welcome a very special guest to our show for a new segment called “Letter From a Correspondent,” it’s the world-renowned economist Dr. James K. Galbraith; author of, most recently, “Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe.”