The history of textiles is intimately linked to child labor and slavery, to colonialism, and to world trade and conquest. Slaves, often taken from Africa in exchange for European textiles, were imported to
the American South in vast numbers to pick cotton once Eli Whitney’s cotton gin made large-scale cotton farming cost-effective.2 The West Indies got rapidly colonized to increase cotton exports to England. The modern organic chemistry industry, and many of the chemical companies like BASF that dominate the industry today, got started making aniline dyes for cloth. The very root of “technology,” the Greek techne, refers to “weaving.” The misery and suffering that textile mills occasioned became the seeds of social discontent, spawning the then radical political ideas of democracy, republicanism, and eventually the proletariat-based theories of Karl Marx.