The Rise of the Brazilian Cotton Trade in Britain during the Industrial Revolution


When and why did Brazilian cotton become important to the Industrial Revolution in Britain? Between 1791 and 1801, Brazilian cotton represented 40 per cent of raw cotton imports in Liverpool, rivalling those from the West Indies. Using archival data between 1760 and 1808, this paper shows that Brazil benefitted from increasing British demand for a new variety of cotton staple that emerged with mechanised textile production. Previous explanations for the rise of Brazilian cotton trade attributed it to the revolutions in the Caribbean in the 1790s, and the American War of Independence, which ended in 1783. Evidence, however, suggests that these explanations are incomplete or incorrect. The United States did not export cotton to Britain before 1790, and British imports from the West Indies did not fall after the revolutions.

In Journal of Latin American Studies, JLAS.