As the cotton industry recovered from the Cotton Famine, other sources of raw cotton were sought in order to ensure that never again would the industry be solely reliant on a single source of its valuable raw material. But the seeds of the industry's destruction had already been sown. The lifting of restrictions on the exportation of textile machinery in 1843 had led to the growth of Indian, Brazilian and Japanese cotton industries. Whilst competition from European cotton companies was not a particular worry, the low wages paid to workers in Asia, South America and the Far East meant that cotton could be produced in these countries far more cheaply than was possible in the United Kingdom.
In 1873, raw cotton ceased to be Britain's largest import for the first time since 1825. These problems were exacerbated by the slowness of British cotton industry to adapt new technologies (see "Indian Summer", following). Although the Lancashire cotton industry did continue to grow, depressions in the cotton industry and the effects of the trade cycle (Britain's economy underwent a long-term depression between 1873-1896) took their toll. Nonetheless this was a period of optimism when trade followed the flag and Britain's Empire grew, and Lancashire's cotton empire with it. But the cotton industry's last hurrah was surprisingly close at hand.
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