Cover Image: The Fabric of Civilization

The Fabric of Civilization

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Excellent review of the involvement and contribution of the technology of fabric throughout civilization. Historically rich and endlessly interesting, this book connects fabric (including fiber and thread) to important cultural, economic and social developments. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I was learning as I looked forward to reading the next chapter. This book is well written with appropriate tangents to the main topic of fabric. I wish more books on the history of science and technology were written in this fashion.
Was this review helpful?
The Fabric of Civilization is a very well written and well researched book on the history of textiles. Even without a background in the subject, I found this book fascinating. It would make a great gift for someone who is interested in fashion, fabric or textiles. 

The author starts with the very earliest piece of fiber discovered and progresses through the invention of flax, silk and the origins of cotton to dyes and weaves and current innovations. As a scientist, I particularly appreciated the section on cotton genetics which was written with great care and precision. 

Thanks to NetGallery for the wonderful opportunity to read this book in exchange for an unbiased review.
Was this review helpful?
"The Fabric of Civilization" is a history about the far-reaching influence that textiles have had on the world. The author looked into aspects of fabric production, selling, and use that I have not seen covered in other histories about textiles. Overall, this was an interesting read, and I'd recommend it to those interested in this topic.

The author talked about how cotton, silk, wool, and flax were used to make fabrics very early on and how people improved the plants' and animals' production and quality of fiber through selective breeding and other practices. The first person to come up with the germ theory did so because he was working on curing a disease affecting silkworms. The next chapter covered spinning technologies, starting with the drop spindle and moving on to the spindle wheel, spinning jenny, and other factory machines. The third chapter covered weaving and how advanced math may have been developed by weavers creating complicated patterns, how physical codes for patterns were created in different cultures, the history of weaving patterns like brocade, and information about knitting machines.

The fourth chapter covered dying fabric and the developments in chemistry created by the demand for certain colors, from the original plant- and animal-based dyes to the synthetic dye development. The fifth chapter covered fabric merchants and how they developed things like accounting, using cloth as money, bills of exchange, and more. The sixth chapter covered how the demand for various fabrics influenced what was made and how some countries forbade certain fabrics or fashions. The last chapter covered modern innovations, from new types of synthetic thread to coatings that can be put on cloth to prevent stains and such.
Was this review helpful?
<i>The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World</i> weaves together the very long and interesting history of textiles with the future of the textiles industry. While explaining complex and ancient processes for spinning, weaving, dyeing, etc. Postrel always emphasizes the ingenuity and technological advancements of the textile industry in civilizations hundreds or thousands of years ago. This is balanced by looking at modern research in textiles today. I generally prefer the historical view, but I do appreciate the push to make the topic relevant and show how it has evolved from then to now. I was absolutely fascinated by the topic and appreciated that it was presented in an accessible way.

*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
An excellent book on the role of fabric throughout history.—in ways that many would not expect. From fashion, to politics, to science, people who work with cloth have made amazing contributions that ended up modernizing civilization. Might be a bit of a niche audience, but for those who enjoy object histories, it is definitely interesting and enlightening. Would work for fans of books like SALT by Mark Kurlansky.

I particularly loved the lengthy chapter on silk in the beginning of the book, which took on a truly global scale that I found is lacking in so many of these history books. Postrel truly shows the breadth of cultural exchange that happened via trade in cloth, and weaves a wonderful story about human ingenuity from the earliest inceptions of fabric.

I also thought that the way this book was organized was particularly interesting and helpful. Rather than separate it out via countries/regions or specific periods, Postrel chose to map out the history of fabric through the various steps that go into producing textiles. This offers a far more integrated approach to the overall world history of the material, and shows how different developments arose concurrently for similar problems.
Was this review helpful?
The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World would be an excellent addition to a high school curriculum, it has something for everyone: mathematicians, inventors, scientists, botanists, historians, artists, designers, and fashion. As an educator and knitting/sewing enthusiast, I appreciated the glossary, index, and the extensive notes as well as the story-telling approach to each chapter. The book is dense with information and it is fun to discover and explore the history of civilization through textiles.
Was this review helpful?
As a graduate in fashion design, i found this book to be an excellent source of information and research for fashion enthusiasts or fashion and textile students. Very interesting!
Was this review helpful?
Interesting look at broader issues surrounding fabrics

I enjoyed this book. The subject material was much broader than I expected. There was a discussion of international trade, history, and chemistry. And it was all discussed with a conversational tone. I did think that there was sometimes too much discussion of actual weaving and heddles and the like. I didn’t really start to love the book until Chapter Four on dyes, but from this chapter on, the book was excellent. Overall this book is well worth reading.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary advance reader copy of this book via Netgalley for review purposes.
Was this review helpful?
Virginia Postrel has an incisive, wide-ranging mind and a knack for writing about what others aren't. This subject was not one on which I'm focused, but I expect the book will find its audience.
Was this review helpful?
Good book about clothes and how it came. Intresting to about something different.thank u netgalley for this book.
Was this review helpful?
This wonderfully informative book practically sings! My eyes have really been opened to a subject I've been interested in but up until now had not explored in detail. To me it's a Wow! book.

From prehistory to the current day this book goes into sumptuous detail about fabric from flax and cotton seeds to religious ceremonies to government control to nylon stockings...it's all here! Copious research obviously went into this, yet it was written in an easily accessible way, with helpful charts, glossary, photographs and illustrations.

Since the beginning of time fabric has been crucial, something we take for granted. The intelligence and chemistry involved is breathtaking. The descriptions of silk, weaving and dyes arrested my attention in particular. No wonder the colour purple was so challenging to create! Details such as ship sails and Roman garments are memorable.

Clothes send a message. They always have. Reading about various countries prohibiting different fabrics and styles is telling about attempted government control throughout history.

Also intriguing is the information above each chapter heading.

All that's required for this book is curiosity. You needn't be into textiles or fashion, just a thirst for knowledge.

Well, well worth a read. I believe this will be one of my most memorable Nonfiction reads this year...and I've read over 200 books thus far in 2020. Loved it and have already recommended to reader friends and family.

My sincere thank you to Perseus Books, Basic Books and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this remarkable book. Much appreciated.
Was this review helpful?
This was a fantastic work of non-fiction. The cover is also incredibly striking and is what first caught my attention. This book is well-researched and goes into a lot of detail about the processes, technology and people, involved in the production of textiles (primarily clothing) throughout history. The writing style was easy to read, and I found that it was well-balanced between the details and readability, and it never felt dry or too academic. I learnt a lot from reading this one, not just about textiles on their own, but about how they influenced human development and in turn were shaped by that development. A fascinating read from start to finish, that would be of interest to anyone with an interest in fashion or history.
Was this review helpful?
Very interesting history for those wanting to know more about textiles, trade, and early civilization.
Was this review helpful?
Fascinating! Loved reading this a diving into fabrics and how they have shaped the world. From fashionistas to historians it should be found an interesting read. Well done.
Was this review helpful?
Fascinating History. Postrel does a remarkable job of looking at the various people and technologies of making (primarily clothing) textiles throughout history and even into the future. She largely centers around the various types of entities involved in the work, from the source materials to the weavers to the sellers and a few other types, and shows how each contributed in some way to the overall history and to where we are now. Several tidbits I didn't know, including just how much cotton yarn is in an average pair of jeans, and a few that sound plausible, but which I'd need to research a bit more (such as claims about textiles being an early form of computing). At least one passage in particular actually brought to mind the James McAvoy / Angelina Jolie / Morgan Freeman movie Wanted, where looms and weaving play a central part in the mythos. Very much recommended.
Was this review helpful?
Breathtaking work of non-fiction!!! I didn't have such a thrill reading a research for a very long time.  Both extensive historical research and master storytelling makes this book a hidden art. 
Taking into consideration all parts involved, their resources and interests, the author masterfully presents the importance of textile industry un human development and successfuly vice-versa. This is the non-fiction done right and perfect anc can possibly convert more people to research this topic and appreciate textile and clothing more than we do nowadays.

As printed, please, please share a copy with me. This book will have its special place in my brain and bookshelf forever. Thank you!
Was this review helpful?
Unfortunately I am unable to leave any feedback or a review as I have been unable to down load this title in its current format. My apologies for not checking out availability of the download. 

Thank you however for your approval and opportunity to read and review before it’s publication date.
Was this review helpful?