A further factor in the exponential growth of cotton in the South of the mid-nineteenth century was the rapid development of Great Britain's industrialized economy. At that time, Britain had the largest economy in the world, and the textile mills of the North contributed enormously to the country's economic success. These mills required a regular supply of cotton, virtually all of which was imported from the American South.
This had the effect of driving the Industrial Revolution in Britain to new heights, as well as spurring the growth of the American cotton trade by mid-century. No wonder Southern politicians believed that the enormous power of "King Cotton" would ensure that the North would never threaten the South.
Such optimism turned out to be spectacularly ill-founded, of course. As indeed was the assumption among many Southerners that Great Britain would intervene on the side of the Confederacy in the Civil War in order to protect the regular supply of cotton on which its...
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