An Inquiry into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts
W.W. Norton & Company 2017
New Books in ArchaeologyNew Books in ArtNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in European StudiesNew Books in FolkloreNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network March 4, 2019 Rachel Hopkin
Alexander Langlands is a British archaeologist, historian, writer, and broadcaster. His most recent book, Cræft: An Inquiry into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts, was published by Norton to great acclaim in 2017 and has just been reissued as a paperback. Cræft is an antiquated spelling of “craft” and in the book, Langlands explores what the word meant when it initially appeared in English over a thousand years ago. Our modern understanding of the term, Langlands argues, is at some remove from its original significance. When it was first used by Anglo-Saxons, the term referred to “power or skill in the context of knowledge, ability, and a kind of learning” (17). In Cræft, Langlands combines scholarly research with personal anecdotes as he discusses a range of pursuits which he himself has undertaken, including hay-making, hedgerow planting, dry wall building, and roof thatching.
Folklorist Millie Rahn describes Cræft as follows: “This beautifully-written book is basically a cautionary tale about the loss of knowledge, wisdom, power, and skill embedded in tradition, and our ignoring that knowledge at our peril. It’s not a treatise; more a paean to the human condition. Not the first to lament our intellectual, spiritual, and physical disconnect with the modern world, or acknowledge the periodic arts and crafts revivals, the writer says we have the power to transform our world and ourselves if we go back to our roots as humans, as ‘makers’. That’s where he distinguishes ‘craeft’ from the art and connoisseurship of ‘craft’– the whole cycle of ‘making’ rooted (all puns intended) in our agricultural processes.”
Rachel Hopkin is a UK born, US based folklorist and radio producer and is currently a PhD candidate at the Ohio State University.