Menard Speaker Series: The Fabric of Civilization: April 3

April 02, 2024

Menard Speaker Series: The Fabric of Civilization

Wed., April 3 • 5 p.m. • WB 144

Author Virginia Postrel will share how textiles have shaped civilization as we know it.

Textiles are one of humanity’s oldest and most influential technologies, but most people take them for granted. Drawing on her book "The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World," author Virginia Postrel will take us on a tour of some of the innovations — in fiber, spinning, weaving, and dyeing — that gave us today’s textile abundance and the ways textiles shaped civilization as we know it.

The story of humanity is the story of textiles -- as old as civilization itself. Since the first thread was spun, the need for textiles has driven technology, business, politics, and culture.

Virginia Postrel synthesizes groundbreaking research from archaeology, economics, and science to reveal a surprising history. From Minoans exporting wool colored with precious purple dye to Egypt, to Romans arrayed in costly Chinese silk, the cloth trade paved the crossroads of the ancient world. Textiles funded the Renaissance and the Mughal Empire; they gave us banks and bookkeeping, Michelangelo's David and the Taj Mahal. The cloth business spread the alphabet and arithmetic, propelled chemical research, and taught people to think in binary code.


Virginia Postrel is a Los Angeles-based writer and a contributing editor for the London-based magazine "Works in Progress". Her latest book is "The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World." During her research for "The Fabric of Civilization," she learned to weave and is the president of the Southern California Handweavers’ Guild.


Presented by the Institute for the Study of Political Economy. The Institute for the Study of Political Economy (ISPE) approaches the study of political economy as an analysis of governance. We examine what it means to have good public and private governance. We analyze which institutions and institutional rules are likely to lead to good governance, and how governance – good and bad — impacts outcomes. We are particularly interested in wealth and income, economic growth, health, freedom and liberty, and quality of life in the American Midwest. In order to positively impact outcomes, we communicate the lessons learned from rigorous academic analysis to students, citizens at large, private organization leadership, and elected and appointed officials.


Share article to: