India and the History of Cotton

Cotton it truly a miracle fiber: it has been spun, woven, and dyed since ancient times, and it is still the most widely used fiber for cloth today. It is soft and fluffy and grows in a boll around the seeds of the cotton plant. There is almost nothing that cotton can’t be turned into: clothes, bedding, tabletop, furniture, even art. The first people in Eurasia to grow cotton for clothing, sheets, and towels were the Harappan people, an early civilization, who migrated from Africa to what is now modern Pakistan, but then the subcontinent of India. We owe our earliest information about cotton to a series…

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Gandhi and the spinning wheel

THIS PHOTOGRAPH OF Mohandas K. Gandhi (October 2, 1869–January 30, 1948), dressed only in a loincloth and working at his spinning wheel on the deck of the SS Rajputana, was taken in 1931 as Gandhi traveled to London to attend a high-level roundtable conference with British officials.1 Gandhi was leader of the Indian National Congress and the major force in its drive for independence. He had already led successful non-violent civil disobedience and tax resistance campaigns against British rule, culminating in the 250-mile “Salt March” from Ahmedabad to the Indian Ocean at Dandi (March 12–April 6, 1930).2 After violently assaulting the marchers, the British imprisoned Gandhi and 60000 supporters. Because of…

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