Main content

The Lancashire Cotton Famine

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the cotton famine in Lancashire during the American Civil War, when the supply of cotton from the south was blocked and mills closed.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Cotton Famine in Lancashire from 1861-65. The Famine followed the blockade of Confederate Southern ports during the American Civil War which stopped the flow of cotton into mills in Britain and Europe. Reports at the time told of starvation, mass unemployment and migration. Abraham Lincoln wrote, "I know and deeply deplore the sufferings which the working-men of Manchester, and in all Europe, are called to endure in this crisis." While the full cause and extent of the Famine in Lancashire are disputed, the consequences of this and the cotton blockade were far reaching.


Lawrence Goldman
Director of the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London

Emma Griffin
Professor of History at the University of East Anglia


David Brown
Senior Lecturer in American Studies at University of Manchester

Producer: Simon Tillotson.

Available now

45 minutes

Last on

Thu 14 May 2015 21:30


Lawrence Goldman at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London

Emma Griffin at the University of East Anglia

David Brown at the University of Manchester

Spinning the Web: The Story of the Cotton Industry

Home-Life of the Lancashire Factory Folk During the Cotton Famine by Edwin Waugh

The American Civil War and the Lancashire cotton famine - Revealing Histories

Lancashire Cotton Famine - Wikipedia



R. J. M. Blackett, Divided Hearts: Britain and the American Civil War (Louisiana State University Press, 2000)

Duncan Andrew Campbell, English Public Opinion and the American Civil War (Royal Historical Society, 2003)

Duncan Andrew Campbell, Unlikely Allies: Britain, America and the Victorian Origins of the Special Relationship (Bloomsbury, 2008)

Amanda Foreman, A World on Fire: An Epic History of Two Nations Divided (Allen Lane, 2010)

W. O. Henderson, The Lancashire Cotton Famine, 1861-1865 (first published 1934; Manchester University Press, 1969)

Howard Jones, Blue and Gray Diplomacy: A History of Union and Confederate Foreign Relations (University of North Carolina Press, 2010)

Norman Longmate, The Hungry Mills: The Story of the Lancashire Cotton Famine 1861-5 (Maurice Temple Smith Ltd, 1978)

Richard Ryley, My Days are Swifter than a Weaver’s Shuttle: Richard Ryley’s Diary, 1862 (Clement, 1982)

Geoffrey Timmins, Four Centuries of Lancashire Cotton (Lancashire County Books, 1996)

John Watts, The Facts of the Cotton Famine (first published 1866;, 2013)



Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Lawrence Goldman
Interviewed Guest Emma Griffin
Interviewed Guest David Brown
Producer Simon Tillotson


  • Thu 14 May 2015 09:00
  • Thu 14 May 2015 21:30

Featured in...

In Our Time podcasts

In Our Time podcasts

Every episode of In Our Time is available to download.

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

The In Our Time Listeners' Top 10

If you’re new to In Our Time, this is a good place to start.

Arts and Ideas podcast

Arts and Ideas podcast

Download the best of Radio 3's Free Thinking programme.