This paper wishes to explore the use of the concept of "international competition" in the rhetoric of the Ghent cotton barons in the long nineteenth century. The aim is to analyse the arguments, and not so much to compare the discourse with a historical reality. The employers' discourse (analysed on the basis of parliamentary speeches, brochures and petitions) ceaselessly referred to a genuine peril from foreign competition, in order to obtain a solid or subtle intervention from the governments, particularly aiming at protective actions. Up to the 1850s, the cotton barons managed to eliminate most of the contradictions between managers and owners of spinning and weaving mills, as well as they managed to obtain the workers' support. In the second half of the nineteenth century, however, internal differences and more harsh relations with the workers, led to diverse discourse and strategies of the employers. Nevertheless, the persisting panic-like discourse of the employers not only aimed at conducting a particular customs policy, but it was also meant to influence directly the industrial relations. Hence, the alarm screams of the cotton barons, with or without actual grounds, had a real effect.
|Translated title of the contribution||Rhetoric and practices. The Ghent cotton industry, economic crises, and the employer's perception of the international competition, 1790-1914|
|Number of pages||21|
|Journal||Revue d'Histoire du XIXe Siecle|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Dec 2001|