Madder Red: A History of Luxury and Trade
Madder red is an ancient dyestuff, extracted from the root of the madder plant, growing in many countries around the world. The secret and devilishly complex Oriental dyeing process to obtain the lustrous colour known as Turkey Red was avidly sought by Europeans, from the time before the fall of Ancient Rome. It was finally cracked by the French about 1760, who were able to dye wool, silk and cotton bright red. After the lowlands of the Caspian Caucasus had been subdued by the Russians in the early 1800s, madder was cultivated there and rapidly became the main crop. The quest for Turkey Red went hand in hand with an avalanche of scientific research, which not only improved the yield of dyestuff from the roots but led to its chemical synthesis and in 1870 the collapse of the world-wide madder industry. Many of the nascent dye companies grew into chemical giants of our time. Further regional and cultural background may be found in Chenciner's Daghestan: Tradition and Survival, also published in the Caucasus World series.