The Cotton Famine Episode

episode 4 cotton workers photo

In Manchester on new year’s eve 1862, thousands turned out for a public meeting to congratulate President Abraham Lincoln for issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. What motivated these people to come along on a wet Wednesday night to listen to fiery speeches about a foreign war? Especially since the most obvious impact of the American Civil War on Lancashire was that the supply of raw cotton was cut off—the so-called ‘cotton famine’—causing huge economic distress in the textile mill towns. The answer seems to lie in the faith that—somehow—the US represented the last, best hope of earth. Even to people in Lancashire. In this episode, Adam talks to David Brown of the University of Manchester and Richard Blackett of Vanderbilt University, to find out about the impact of the cotton famine and what it tells us about the meaning of America in mid-Victorian Britain.

Download this episode here.