Lancashire and the Undeveloped Estates: The British Cotton Growing Association Fund-Raising Campaign, 1902-1914

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Copyright © The North American Conference on British Studies 2015. This article revisits the idea of cotton imperialism in Britain, showing that metropolitan support for cotton projects in the British Empire was uneven. Using the records of the British Cotton Growing Association's (BCGA) fund-raising campaign of 1902-1914, the article shows that empire cotton did not receive widespread support in Britain. In Lancashire, some cotton capitalists financed the movement for empire cotton, but many others refused to participate. Investors were uninterested in the BCGA's business model despite their interest in other cotton projects. To make matters worse, the BCGA became a tool for politicians on both sides of the Tariff Reform controversy. Textile workers were the only major segment of the British population to accept the BCGA's claims about the value of empire-grown cotton for Britain. Their support for imperial development was, however, limited and pragmatic. The BCGA's struggle to raise money for empire cotton shows the importance of grounding the rhetoric of empire in empirical findings: in the face of the Lancashire lobby's vocal campaign for empire cotton, Britons in general were reluctant to pay for it themselves.

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Journal of British Studies