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The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History


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A Sunday Times (UK) Book of the Year

Shortlisted • Society of Authors' Somerset Maugham Award

A BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week


The best-selling author of The Secret Lives of Color returns with this rollicking narrative of the 30,000-year history of fabric, briskly told through thirteen charismatic episodes.


From colorful 30,000-year-old threads found on the floor of a Georgian cave to the Indian calicoes that sparked the Industrial Revolution, The Golden Thread weaves an illuminating story of human ingenuity. Design journalist Kassia St. Clair guides us through the technological advancements and cultural customs that would redefi ne human civilization—from the fabric that allowed mankind to achieve extraordinary things (traverse the oceans and shatter athletic records) and survive in unlikely places (outer space and the South Pole). She peoples her story with a motley cast of characters, including Xiling, the ancient Chinese empress credited with inventing silk, to Richard the Lionhearted and Bing Crosby. Offering insights into the economic and social dimensions of clothmaking—and countering the enduring, often demeaning, association of textiles as “merely women's work”—The Golden Thread offers an alternative guide to our past, present, and future.

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