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Liverpool and the Raw Cotton Trade: A Study of the Port and its Merchant Community, 1770-1815

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posted on 2023-03-14, 23:31 authored by Krichtal, Alexey

This thesis examines the port of Liverpool, its merchant community, and the growth of the raw cotton trade from its initial rise c. 1770 to the end of the Napoleonic period in 1815. By constructing a large database from Liverpool import lists published in Lancashire newspapers, combined with surviving cotton planter, merchant, and manufacturer papers, this thesis analyses: first, the rise of Liverpool as a major British cotton port and the geographical shifts in the port‘s cotton supply from the West Indies to Guyana, Brazil, and the United States; then second, the organisation of Liverpool‘s cotton trade in the Atlantic basin and at home. The port‘s cotton trade and the form of cotton procurement developed out of the pre-existing trading conditions prior to the cotton boom between Liverpool and each cotton cultivation region, and underwent major re-organisation in the early nineteenth century. Liverpool‘s cotton trade attracted new merchants who specialised in the import-export trade with one major region. Therefore, as cotton cultivation expanded from the West Indies to northern South America and the southern United States, the Liverpool market underwent a de-concentration from an oligopoly in the hands of few large cotton merchants to a more competitive market with many cotton importers. Ultimately, greater specialisation of Liverpool‘s cotton merchant and brokerage community resulted in increased efficiency in the importing, marketing, and selling of cotton on the British market, while a de-concentration of the Liverpool market provided the right market conditions to ward off artificially high prices, fostering the development of a cheap supply of raw cotton needed to sustain industrialisation of the British cotton industry in the nineteenth century.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Behrendt, Stephen