A Tangled Weave: when Louis XIV made owning calico cotton a crime

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/10/02/a-tangled-weave-when-louis-xi.html


This kind of ban wasn’t that unusual. In Sweden coffee was forbidden in the middle of the 18th century, not because it was seen as dangerous, but because import affected the trade balance.


I’ve heard of other similar bans but i can’t think of other examples off the top of my head right now. I do find it interesting and ridiculous that cotton would face an import ban.

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I wondered if this was another kids story with deeper meanings about clashes of commercial empires and the result, but apparently not.

However, it was said to be inspired by an ancient cat meme waiting for the Internet and cheeseburgers to be invented.


People are bound to mistake that for a book about the spread of tuberculosis, eh?

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Well, it was textiles that kicked off the industrial revolution. It was one of the first major commodities of the capitalist system (after mass produced agriculture in the West Indies - sugar, for example). And under Louis XIV this is still very much the mercantilist economy, where trade balance is everything.


It does make sense but controlling where people were buying textiles seems like an uphill fight. Especially since the particular cotton in question was on the high end, so its not like it was hugely impacting the average person as far as i understand.


Sure, but this was far easier to do in the 17th century, where commodity markets were not so widespread…

Yes, this was more about controlling the nobility, I’d say than controlling the peasant farmer in france. A lot of the tensions in French society was due to the absolutist tendencies of the French Kings and the push by the nobility for greater autonomy.

And that book mentioned (A Histoy of Everyday Things) likely addresses that spread of consumerism from the elites to the commoner. I’m gonna have to pick that up, as it sounds interesting, in addition to this book here under discussion.


I suppose this is the mirror image to outfitting the army with red trousers to support the dye industry in the 19th century.

Certainly this is before the cotton gin made American grown, slave produced, cotton cheaper than linen or wool.


Then there was that time that Marie Antoinette wore a controversial dress (also cotton) which had an adverse effect on the French textile industry. This is from a fascinating series about the history of costume and how it relates to social change;


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