SCHG's June Program

“Wandering Cotton, Medieval Machines, Arsenic Socks, and the Meaning of Bistanclac: Sights, Sounds, and Stories from the History of Textiles”

June 9, 2018

by Virginia Postrel

Venice weaving
Silk twisting machine
The ancient Greeks used the same word for two of their most important technologies, calling both the loom and the ship’s mast histós. The story of technology is the story of textiles. From the prehistoric times to the present, so too is the story of economic development and global exchange. Drawing on the research for her next book, The Fabric of Civilization, Virginia Postrel will share stories, photographs, and show-and-tell artifacts from the surprising history of textiles, technology, and trade.
Virginia Postrel is a Los Angeles–based writer with a particular interest in the intersection of culture, commerce, and technology. She is a columnist for Bloomberg View and the author of three books: The Power of Glamour (2013), The Substance of Style (2003), and The Future and Its Enemies (1998). Her current project is The Fabric of Civilization, to be published by Basic Books. It was inspired by her popular article on textiles and technology in Aeon 2015, “Losing the Thread”.  Her website is