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Cotton is a white fluffy plant that has been used the world 'round for clothing and fabric for almost five thousand years. This versatile plant grows naturally in both hemispheres, surviving in a wide variety of climates. The earliest accounts of cotton come from the Indus River valley in modern Pakistan. From there it spread to Europe and Africa, and eventually to the New World. Taking root in the southern English colonies, the cotton industry of the New World quickly became the primary supplier of Europe's cotton demands, thanks in large part to the invention of the cotton gin in 1793. The American South would remain the most important source of cotton until the 19th century, when America's slave-based economy crumbled and Egypt took the reigns as the world's primary cotton provider.