Today, Kate Frederick’s and my article “Local advantage in a global context. Competition, adaptation and resilience in textile manufacturing in the ‘periphery’, 1860–1960” has appeared online (Open Access First View) in the renowned Journal of Global History.
In this article, we analyse the resilience of domestic textile production in Java and sub-Saharan Africa, to uncover how local industries coped with the effects of broader global and colonial forces in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. We demonstrate that many domestic handicraft manufacturers managed to survive due to specific competitive advantages. Strategies of product differentiation, responsiveness to shifting consumer needs, and flexibility in manufacturing methods, enabled local producers to remain competitive in confrontation with mounting imports from early factories, typically constituting cheap, but lower quality and less unique products. Some local manufacturers could even compete based on price given the very low labour costs associated with seasonally-oriented handicraft production, raising questions about the extent of the comparative advantage enjoyed by early-industrializing nations in the Global North. The capacity of domestic textile producers to remain competitive amid colonial policies aimed at capturing local markets – and raw cotton sources – highlights not only the importance of product differentiation and the specificity of local demand, but also the agency exercised by both producers and consumers under colonial rule.
You can access it via this weblink