The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World

The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World

by Virginia Postrel

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Overview

From Neanderthal string to 3D knitting, an “expansive” global history that highlights “how textiles truly changed the world” (Wall Street Journal)

The story of humanity is the story of textiles—as old as civilization itself. Since the first thread was spun, the need for textiles has driven technology, business, politics, and culture.

In The Fabric of Civilization, Virginia Postrel synthesizes groundbreaking research from archaeology, economics, and science to reveal a surprising history. From Minoans exporting wool colored with precious purple dye to Egypt, to Romans arrayed in costly Chinese silk, the cloth trade paved the crossroads of the ancient world. Textiles funded the Renaissance and the Mughal Empire; they gave us banks and bookkeeping, Michelangelo’s David and the Taj Mahal. The cloth business spread the alphabet and arithmetic, propelled chemical research, and taught people to think in binary code.
 
Assiduously researched and deftly narrated, The Fabric of Civilization tells the story of the world’s most influential commodity.

“We are taken on a journey as epic, and varying, as the Silk Road itself.… [The Fabric of Civilization is] like a swatch of a Florentine Renaissance brocade: carefully woven, the technique precise, the colors a mix of shade and shine and an accurate representation of the whole cloth."

New York Times

“Textile-making hasn’t gotten enough credit for its own sophistication, and for all the ways it undergirds human technological innovation—an error Virginia Postrel’s erudite and complete book goes a long way toward correcting at last.”

Wired



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781541617629
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 12/07/2021
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 57,347
Product dimensions: 8.10(w) x 5.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Virginia Postrel is an award-winning journalist and independent scholar. She is a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion and has been a columnist for the Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. She is the author of the highly acclaimed The Substance of Style and The Power of Glamour. Her research is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

Table of Contents

Preface: The Fabric of Civilization 1

Chapter 1 Fiber 7

Chapter 2 Thread 41

Chapter 3 Cloth 71

Chapter 4 Dye 109

Chapter 5 Traders 147

Chapter 6 Consumers 179

Chapter 7 Innovators 217

Afterword: Why Textiles? 247

Acknowledgments 251

Glossary 255

Notes 261

Index 291

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