Painted and dyed wall hanging (detail). Indian, for European market, ca. 1740s–1750s. Cotton, dye, paint; 8 ft. 11 in. x 99 in. (271.78 x 251.46 cm)
Brutal warfare, conquest, and the enslavement of millions enabled the expansion of Europe's maritime trading ventures and colonial territories after 1500. Competing with other great trading empires, Europeans fought to dominate the global trade in precious raw materials for textile production as well as finished fabrics. Textiles served to chronicle military clashes and champion European imperialism, celebrating battles won and heroes lost. Yet they could also serve as vehicles for dissenters who condemned the destruction and cruelty that came with global expansion.