From a British archaeologist and medieval historian, an investigation into how ancient craftsmen used their skill, available natural resources and especially cræft to solve the problems that life threw at them.
In his new book Craeft, the archaeologist and BBC presenter Alexander Langlands offers a fascinating and surprisingly relevant dive into a subject that might seem niche to many—the origins of traditional crafts in medieval Europe ... It’s vignette after charming vignette of ancient processes, described in exuberant detail as Langlands travels through Spain, France, England, Scotland, and Iceland. Readers get a richly atmospheric peek into 'craefts' like the thatching of roofs, the spinning of wool, and the tanning of hides ... In Craeft, Langlands calls for living and working with awareness of our environments, materials, and challenges in real time. We don’t have to quit our jobs and start keeping bees in order to do this.
Beyond the mastery of specialized skills, Langlands is talking about something more holistic: a way of looking at the world. In reconnecting with craeft, he begins to see not just the beauty of an object or a building or a landscape, but the deeper purpose for which each has been created ... Langlands, surprisingly unsentimental for someone who made his fame doing historical re-enactments, resists the pull of nostalgia. Yet he makes a persuasive case that the surrender of our lives to machines represents a regression ... At a time where our disconnection from the world around us is not just tragic but downright dangerous, recovering our status as Homo faber, the species that makes things, may be our salvation.
The importance of cræft is demonstrated by the devastating effects its absence can have: The modern tendency to favor mechanization over cræft, Langlands posits, has resulted in flooding, soil degradation and global warming. In a world with diminishing resources, it might be wise to tap into cræft to ensure a sustainable future. Langlands has written an excellent introduction to guide us.