Manchester Metropolitan University

Historian dubbed 'King of Cotton'

Tribute to illustrious Manchester scholar

ILLUSTRIOUS business historian Douglas Farnie has been labelled the ‘King of Cotton’ in a new tribute to his life study.

Professor Farnie, of MMU Business School, who passed away in June, was revered for his encyclopaedic knowledge of Lancashire’s industrial history and his contribution to the understanding of the pillars of the North West's economy.

Such is the admiration of Farnie among business historians that the publisher behind the tribute has afforded him the moniker ‘King Cotton’, a term first used by Senator J. Hammond of South Carolina in 1858 to illustrate the importance of an industry which accounted for 60% of America’s imports in the second half of the 19th Century.

Carnegie Publishing says: "Cotton really was King. And it would not be stretching the metaphor too far to claim that the 'King of Cotton' in terms of historical enquiry over the last half-century has been Professor Douglas A. Farnie."

Heart of Manchester

Cotton was vital for the world economy in the 19th Century; for five generations woven cotton cloth was Britain's most important export product, with Manchester at its heart.

Professor David Jeremy, friend and colleague at MMUBS, said: "Douglas Farnie was the pre-eminent historian of the Lancashire cotton industry in its 19th and 20th Century heyday, who influenced generations of students and researchers."

A first-class graduate of the University of Manchester, Douglas made his name at the same institution, writing his most important research with a fountain pen!

He later became connected with the newly established Centre for Business History at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he was made Visiting Professor in 1997.

Blessed with a capacious memory, he served as an inspiration and a wise counsellor to staff and students alike.

Global scholar

Never parochial in his outlook, Douglas Farnie returned to his global interests during the last decades of his life, developing collaborations which attracted Japanese and American scholars to Manchester. He was a generous supplier of information about the Lancashire textile industry to students and scholars worldwide.

The collection of essays is based on Professor Farnie’s work, with original chapters by colleagues written specifically as a tribute to his contribution. Topics cover cotton industry, the international cotton textiles industry, the woollen industry, Manchester and the regional economy.

David Jeremy adds: "This collection accurately reflects the enormous contribution Douglas Farnie made to each of these subjects. It extends our knowledge of Lancashire and the textile history, and provokes fresh debates about issues that will never be laid to rest.

"It provides a fitting tribute to a man who relished the search for knowledge creation as the driving force behind a life devoted to this pursuit."

King Cotton: A tribute to Douglas A. Farnie edited by Professor J.F. Wilson is published by Carnegie and features chapters from MMU business academics and historians Geoffrey Tweedale, Terry Wyke, John Mason, Alan Fowler and David Jeremy.

See The Independent for more about the life of Douglas Farnie

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