The history of textiles, more than that of any other artefact, is the history of human ingenuity. From the very earliest needles of 25,000 years ago, to the "techno textiles" used in Space Shuttle parachutes, they have been fundamental to human existence and achievement, and - as this book demonstrates - have informed developments in many other areas from agriculture to metallurgy. Textiles are truly global commodities, common to every culture and for a long time the motivation for trade, the exchange of ideas and sometimes even conflict, between these cultures. Silks from China, carpets from Persia, ikats from Indonesia, cottons from India, fine linens from Flanders - each one of these transactions has helped to shape the modern world. Written as a chronological survey spanning prehistory to the early 21st century, this book is organized around five themes - materials, methods, trade, technology and social structures - which allow textiles from all ages to be investigated from many angles: how they are made, what they are made from, how they function in society, the ways in which they are valued and given meaning, and the messages they contain.
This approach shows the intricate relationships between different cultures' textile traditions, and above all demonstrates the awesome significance and the history of the materials that we all take for granted in our everyday lives.