A briskly told, 30,000-year history of textiles that “will make you rethink your relationship with fabric” (Elle Decoration).

From colorful threads found on the floor of an ancient Georgian cave to the Indian calicoes that fueled the Industrial Revolution, The Golden Thread illuminates the myriad and fascinating histories behind the cloths that came to define human civilization—the fabric, for example, that allowed mankind to shatter athletic records, and the textile technology that granted us the power to survive in space. Exploring the enduring association of textiles with “women’s work,” Kassia St. Clair “spins a rich social history . . . that also reflects the darker side of technology” (Rachel Newcomb, Washington Post).


"A fascinating look at one of those everyday things many of us take for granted: fabric. Instead of tackling fabric’s entire history, St. Clair.... skips across centuries and around the world, sharing accessible and telling stories.... Whether sharing the silk-making secrets of Chinese empresses or exposing the benefits of performance-enhancing swimsuits, this extensively documented and always entertaining overview works equally well for reading cover to cover or dipping into for snippets." - Kathleen McBroom, Booklist


"Hugely ambitious, sparklingly erudite, and wonderfully engaging." - Peter Frankopan, History Today


"The history of the world through the eye of a needle.... [F]ascinating.... I recommend this book to anyone." - Katrina Gulliver, Spectator


"An eclectic take on how humans have developed fabric…Each subject offers a fascinating look at the challenges that fabrics aim to overcome, as well as the often-devastating environmental and human effects involved in their production… The Golden Thread spins a rich social history of textiles that also reflects the darker side of technology and the development of capitalism." - Rachel Newcomb, Washington Post

The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History by Kassia St. Clair

  • Liveright 2021

    New paperback

    368 pages