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  • The Golden Thread

  • How Fabric Changed History
  • Written by: Kassia St Clair
  • Narrated by: Helen Johns
  • Length: 11 hrs and 26 mins
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (19 ratings)

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The Golden Thread

Written by: Kassia St Clair
Narrated by: Helen Johns
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Publisher's Summary

From the mummies of Ancient Egypt, via the silken dragon robes of Imperial China and the woollen sails of Viking longboats to the Indian calicoes and chintzes that powered the Industrial Revolution (and sparked more than one war), arriving finally at the lab-blended fibres that have allowed astronauts to moonwalk - fabrics, man-made and natural, have changed and shaped the world we live in.

In 12 fascinating chapters, Kassia St Clair lays out an alternative history of civilisation and human creativity. Wittily written and compellingly argued, this book will change the way you see the world.

©2018 Kassia St Clair (P)2018 Hodder & Stoughton Limited
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about The Golden Thread

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    5 out of 5 stars

An excellent, highly listenable book

This is a supreme example of how a good writer can boil down a complex, esoteric topic and summarize it in a way that really grabs your attention. The book is highly accessible and surprisingly in-depth for something mentioned in the intro as "a few stories about fabrics": those stories include the centrality of silk to Ancient China's economy and its political machinations, the world-shaping power that cotton had on the European and American slave trade and global markets, and even how lace fabrics nearly bankrupted a nation. Hardly just a few stories, and it makes for a great interdisciplinary history book.

Also, unlike some less astute authors, St Clair is a capable historian: she pulls from primary sources, statistics of the day when available, and (importantly) provides context and mentions when a source may be unreliable or acting out of unexpected motivation. It's a lesson many historians should familiarize themselves with, as well as those seeking to write about history. She also points out the centrality of women to any story involving fabric (which is likely one reason why the importance of it to world history is often glossed over).

The only points I'll say I'm not a fan of is that the audio quality is just a bit scratchy, and in general I don't care for starting all your subheadings with quotes--snappy titles are usually enough for me.

None of that overly detracts from the book: it's a very accessible, well-structured and capable narrative history, looking at a topic so often underappreciated. Highly recommended for any fan of history, fashion major, or just someone looking for a brief guide to something they may have never truly appreciated.

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  • AM Starks
  • 2019-04-24

The Golden Thread

Helen Johns captivated me with her yarns about the history of fabric from woolen Viking sails to attempts
to weave spider silk. The stories of St. Clair’s book keep the reader engaged while revealing historical fact. I can’t think of a better way to learn about the importance of textiles to world history. Enjoy!

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  • Thomas B.
  • 2019-06-05

It is exactly it's title. Killer history of fabric

it was great. a bit dry, but I really loved it overall. definitely true to the title

favorite mispronunciation brand Nike pronounced like the name Mike. took me a second to realize what they were even talking about

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  • Mauricio
  • 2020-06-13

how to ruin a good book with an aweful narration

This book is really good, another excellent work by Kassia St Claire but this audible version has been ruined by and aweful narration. I would like to get back time and not to buy it.

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  • Pierre Gauthier
  • 2019-03-17

Fascinating but Incomplete!

This original work deals with textiles, a topic rarely covered with a historical perspective, perhaps because it is associated almost exclusively with women in most cultures.

Clearly, much research was carried out in devising the book. It is fascinating for instance to learn more about say the place of cotton in Ancient Egypt, how the sails of Viking ships were (astonishingly) made of wool and how highly resistant suits constitute a central component of space travel.

Sadly, however, there is no conducting thread (no pun intended). The reader is presented with a series of well-developed vignettes, grossly placed in chronological order. It feels as if the author started out to write a history of textiles, got lost in specific details and finally published a collage (not to say a quilt).

Despite this major shortcoming, the novelty of the topic makes this work quite worthwhile.