Craeft by Alexander Langlands

Our Rating

The Observer, November 2017

As one of Britain’s cooler television historians and archaeologists, you’d probably expect Alexander Langlands to suggest that spending time converting raw materials into useful objects might make us happier. But Craeft, his celebration of how traditional crafts are about so much more than making – the old English meaning being an amalgam of “knowledge, power, skill” – isn’t simply man-v-machine polemic, nor does it wallow in nostalgia.

Instead, using a combination of memoir, history and cultural commentary – in the first chapter Langlands has his own Poldark moment with a scythe – Langlands makes a coherent and enjoyable argument for “not just a knowledge of making but a knowledge of being”. Along the way he makes hay, fashions a skep (and its shelter) to keep bees and thatches a roof for a cattle shed – and it’s work as hard as it is rewarding. But his conclusion is that with a little craeft in our lives we can all be a bit more resourceful, ingenious and contemplative – and it’ll do us good to be so.

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