Cræft in the Time of Corona

What we make with our hands tell us a lot about ourselves, even in a pandemic

Courtesy W. W. Norton & Company
Courtesy W. W. Norton & Company

Sure, you’ve gotten really into sourdough during quarantine—but have you ever thatched your own roof with grasses that you grew in your own back yard? Or spent hours researching the secret behind making the perfect haystack? Alexander Langlands has. The archaeologist and medieval historian has been on BBC shows like Edwardian Farm and Tudor Farm, recreating the life of yore, and his book, Cræft, takes DIY to a whole new level. Part how-to, part memoir, the book gets at not only what it means to make things with your own hands, but how this experience connects us to people and places across time. Also, how everyone should set fire to their leaf blowers.

Go beyond the episode:

  • Alexander Langlands’s Cræft: An Inquiry into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts
  • Old meets new in this Pinterest board of traditional tools to complement the book
  • Watch Alexander Langlands re-create early 20th-century life on the BBC’s Edwardian Farmpreceded by Victorian Farm
  • Or there’s Wartime Farm, which returns an English estate to its condition during the Second World War
  • Can’t get enough of the BBC? There’s also  Tudor Monastery Farmfeaturing one of our past guests, Ronald Hutton

Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek and sponsored by the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

SubscribeiTunes • Feedburner • Stitcher • Google Play • Acast

Download the audio here (right click to “save link as …”)

Have suggestions for projects you’d like us to catch up on, or writers you want to hear from? Send us a note: podcast [at] theamericanscholar [dot] org. And rate us on iTunes!

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


Please enter a valid email address
That address is already in use
The security code entered was incorrect
Thanks for signing up