Global Cotton Connections: East meets West in the Derbyshire Peak District, UK


Principal Investigator: Dr Susanne Seymour, School of Geography, University of Nottingham
Co-investigators: Dr Esme Cleall, Univeristy of Sheffield; Dr Lowri Jones, University of Nottingham; Dr Martin Phillips, University of Leicester
Collaborators: Bright Ideas Nottingham; Sheffield Hindu Samaj; Glossop Heritage Trust; Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site
Duration: From 2014 to 2015

Britain is famous for its ‘Industrial Revolution’ and cotton textiles were a key component of this. Many early mills were located in rural areas where water power could be harnessed. The Derbyshire Peak District, now partly covered by a National Park and containing the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, is one key area yet its global connections remain obscured. Sources of raw cotton grown in India, Egypt and on slave-worked plantations in the Americas are rarely identified and colonial markets for cotton goods are usually unrecognised. Such absences contribute to feelings of exclusion and alienation amongst Indian and African Caribbean heritage groups already poorly represented as visitors to such heritage sites and the wider countryside.
This new project seeks to examine the global histories and legacies of cotton in the Derbyshire Peak District, through active engagement with local communities, including those of BME heritage. Archival research into cotton supplies and product use, including links to slavery, is being used to inform collaborative work with three local community-based groups from different heritage backgrounds: members of local heritage societies in Glossop, a Sheffield Hindu cultural group and a Nottingham group of African Caribbean heritage facilitated by the community organisation, Bright Ideas.