When did king cotton move his throne (and has it moved back)?

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Abstract

Contemporary historians commonly accept that California and west Texas became the dominant cotton centers after World War II. Meanwhile the Old South cotton industry declined, almost disappearing altogether by the 1970s. When did cotton production in the West overtake the South, and has it remained that way? How and why did this expansion take place? Many authors credit irrigation, the absence of the boll weevil, or mechanization for this rapid development of the western cotton belt. Are these assumptions true? Did the same shifts occur in the regional cotton production areas within the South and the West? The vague statements of historians about the western cotton expansion hypothesis and the demise of the Cotton South do have some basis in fact. Taken as a whole the West did eventually outproduce the South, but not until the 1970s and then only for about twenty years. However, a closer examination reveals that, contrary to some historical accounts, cotton has been and is again important in the South, particularly in the Mississippi River Valley region. Now the South begins the twenty-first century the way it began this century-as the home of the cotton kingdom. King Cotton never abandoned the South; he just adopted new subjects in the West.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-308
Number of pages16
JournalAgricultural History
Volume74
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2000

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