cover image Cræft: An Inquiry into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts

Cræft: An Inquiry into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts

Alexander Langlands. Norton, $26.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-393-63590-4

Archeologist and BBC presenter Langlands brings his approachable voice and unique firsthand experience to this exploration of the history behind traditional crafts. Despite its modern usage, craft—or cræft, in Old English—is about more than just making; it also connotes the knowledge and resourcefulness needed to adapt in the face of changing materials and circumstances. Through a series of short histories focused on such crafts as thatching, weaving, and leather making, Langlands recovers craft as a model for a more engaged, resilient, and sustainable way of life. Interlacing each history with accounts of his own attempts to practice traditional crafts, Langlands reveals the intricate balancing acts required by craft processes while also reflecting broadly on human interactions with landscapes. Langlands makes a strong, if sometimes unnuanced, argument against the mindlessness of modern consumption, urging readers to prioritize long-term use over profitability and disposability. In the ingenuity of craft, he sees not dead tradition but rather a way forward for an uncertain, unstable world. Sustained by Langland’s clear yet lyrical prose, this book is sure to interest readers concerned with history, human know-how, and the future of this Earth. Illus. (Jan.)