Cotton: The Biography of a Revolutionary Fiber

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In the tradition of Mark Kurlansky's Cod and Salt, this endlessly revealing book reminds us that the fiber we think of as ordinary is the world's most powerful cash crop, and that it has shaped the destiny of nations. Ranging from its domestication 5,500 years ago to its influence in creating Calvin Klein's empire and the Gap, Stephen Yafa's Cotton gives us an intimate look at the plant that fooled Columbus into thinking he'd reached India, that helped start the Industrial Revolution as well as the American Civil War, and that made at least one bug—the boll weevil—world famous. A sweeping chronicle of ingenuity, greed,  conflict, and opportunism, Cotton offers "a barrage of fascinating information" (Los Angeles Times).
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About the author

Stephen Yafa, a novelist, playwright, and award-winning screenwriter, has written for Playboy, Details, Rolling Stone, and the San Francisco Chronicle.
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Reviews

3.5
4 total
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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin
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Published on
Jun 27, 2006
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Pages
416
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ISBN
9781101221358
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Economic History
History / World
Technology & Engineering / Textiles & Polymers
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Sven Beckert
The epic story of the rise and fall of the empire of cotton, its centrality to the world economy, and its making and remaking of global capitalism.
 

 
Cotton is so ubiquitous as to be almost invisible, yet understanding its history is key to understanding the origins of modern capitalism. Sven Beckert’s rich, fascinating book tells the story of how, in a remarkably brief period, European entrepreneurs and powerful statesmen recast the world’s most significant manufacturing industry, combining imperial expansion and slave labor with new machines and wage workers to change the world. Here is the story of how, beginning well before the advent of machine production in the 1780s, these men captured ancient trades and skills in Asia, and combined them with the expropriation of lands in the Americas and the enslavement of African workers to crucially reshape the disparate realms of cotton that had existed for millennia, and how industrial capitalism gave birth to an empire, and how this force transformed the world.


 
The empire of cotton was, from the beginning, a fulcrum of constant global struggle between slaves and planters, merchants and statesmen, workers and factory owners. Beckert makes clear how these forces ushered in the world of modern capitalism, including the vast wealth and disturbing inequalities that are with us today. The result is a book as unsettling as it is enlightening: a book that brilliantly weaves together the story of cotton with how the present global world came to exist.
Robert B. Grossman
Intended for students of intermediate organic chemistry, this text shows how to write a reasonable mechanism for an organic chemical transformation. The discussion is organized by types of mechanisms and the conditions under which the reaction is executed, rather than by the overall reaction as is the case in most textbooks. The treatment emphasizes unifying principles, showing how common mechanisms link seemingly disparate reactions. Each chapter discusses common mechanistic pathways and suggests practical tips for drawing them. Worked problems are included in the discussion of each mechanism, and "common error alerts" are scattered throughout the text to warn readers about pitfalls and misconceptions that bedevil students. Each chapter is capped by a large problem set.

The author has drawn on his own research and the current literature to ensure that appropriate attention is given to topics across the range of modern organic chemistry. The text is unique in its inclusion of a chapter on reactions mediated or catalyzed by transition metals, an area in which mechanistic understanding is now essential. Relatively new topics such as olefin metathesis and cycloaromatization are covered without giving short shrift to more traditional areas such as carbonyl chemistry. The text assumes a basic knowledge of organic chemistry. It can be used either in a formal course or by students working on their own, and will be particularly useful for graduate students studying for qualifying examinations. It will also be useful to students and researchers in biochemistry, pharmacology, and inorganic chemistry.

"This is an excellent and well-presented work.... The author ... has succeeded well in treating the central ideas of reactivity and selectivity in an integrated whole. The clear style of writing, the well chosen examples, and the ... concise summaries of the main points provided at the end of each chapter should enable the reader to easily consolidate what has been learned.... The book is indeed a little work of art."

-- Jens Hartung, Angewandte Chemie International Edition

"I have taught a one-credit course with this book for three years, and, uniformly, the students have rated this book highly for its clarity and for the scope of the problems. ... This book does an excellent job at its stated goal: 'to teach students to come up with reasonable mechanisms for reactions they have never seen before.'"

-- Amy Howell, Synthesis

"I have just finished my first year of graduate studies in organic chemistry at Duke University. I just wanted to let you know how much your book got me through the past year of course work.... When it came to mechanisms, I found the clarity and thoroughness I needed only in your book. It was impressive how you were able to present so much information in a clear and comprehensive manner yet keep the book so manageable in size. In addition to the text, I also was able to benefit from the problems.... Great practice!! The on-line answers are much better than looking up answers by reference.... I am reading it again this summer in preparation for my preliminary exam next spring."

-- David Gooden

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