Silk has long been a global commodity that, because of its exceptional qualities, high value and relative portability, came to be traded over very long distances. Similarly, the silk industry - from sericulture to the weaving of cloth - was one of the most important fields of production in the medieval and early modern world. The production and consumption of silks spread from China to Japan and Korea and travelled westward as far as India, Persia and the Byzantine Empire, Europe, Africa and the Americas. As contributors to this book demonstrate, in this process of diffusion silk fostered technological innovation and allowed new forms of organization of labour to emerge. Its consumption constantly reshaped social hierarchies, gender roles, aesthetic and visual cultures,as well as rituals and representations of power.
Threads of Global Desire is the first attempt at considering a global history of silk in the pre-modern era. The book examines the role of silk production and use in various cultures and its relation to everyday and regulatory practices. It considers silk as a major force of cross cultural interaction through technological exchange and trade in finished and semi-finished goods. Silks mediated design and a taste for luxuries and were part of gifting practices in diplomatic and private contexts. Silk manufacturing also fostered the circulation of skilled craftsmen, connecting different centres and regions across continents and linking the countryside to urban production.
DAGMAR SCHAEFER is Director of Department 3 'Artefacts, Action, and Knowledge' at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and Professor h.c. of the History of Technology at the Technical University, Berlin.
GIORGIO RIELLO is Professor of Global History and Culture at the University of Warwick. He has published extensively on the history of material culture and trade in early modern Europe and Asia and in particular on textiles and fashion.
LUCA MOLA is Professor of Early Modern Europe: History of the Renaissance and the Mediterranean in a World Perspective at the European University Institute in Fiesole.
Contributors: JOSE L. GASCH-TOMAS, SURAIYA FAROQHI, KAROLINA HUTKOVA, FUJITA KAYOKO, BEN MARSH, RUDOLPH MATTHEE, LESLEY ELLIS MILLER, DAVID MITCHELL, LUCA MOLA, LISA MONNAS, AMANDA PHILLIPS, GIORGIO RIELLO, DAGMAR SCHAEFER, ANGELA SHENG