Flax-Linen in history

Flax-linen is as old as time. It was the first fibre to be transformed into a textile. Used in the time of the Pharaohs, flax-linen continues to generate great interest as both industry and consumers recognise its many qualities. Discover the evolution of flax-linen through the ages.

Discover the evolution of flax-linen through the ages

Linen timeline throughout history

  • 36,000 years BCE: Flax was the first textile produced by man and fragments of linen textiles were discovered in a cave in the Caucasus.
  • 5,000 years BCE: Flax farming and linen weaving were fundamental to the economy of ancient Egypt.
  • 3,000 years BCE: The Phoenicians exported linen to Scotland, Persia, India and China.
  • 356-323 BCE: Alexander the Great wore linothorax armour made of 15-20 layers of linen soaked in flaxseed oil, hardened through air oxidation. This was the world’s first composite.
Linothorax Alexandre le Grand
Alexander the Great and the linothorax, a suit of armour made up of 15 to 20 layers of linen.
  • 58-52 BCE: During the Gallic Wars, Julius Caesar was impressed by the quality of textiles produced on the Flemish plains by a population to which he referred as the Belgae - derived from the Celtic for flax. The most sought-after linen was produced by the Atrebates tribe, the ancestors of people living in the Arras region.
  • 789: Charlemagne strove to expand flax-linen production: he decreed that all households must weave linen.
  • 1066: William the Conqueror seized the crown of England. The 70 metres of linen of the Bayeux tapestry still narrate his exploits.
  • 1200: In the 13th century Baptiste, a weaver from the Cambrai region of France, developed a weaving process for extremely delicate linen fabric. It was named batiste in his honour.
  • 1685: Following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in France, more than 6,000 protestant weavers and lacemakers fled to the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, England and Ireland, disseminating their expertise in linen production.
  • 1784: Pierre Samuel du Pont gave the directive to build flax spinning mills in France, and then emigrated to the United States of America where his son founded the company Dupont de Nemours.
  • 1810: Philippe de Girard invents a flax spinning machine: the start of the Industrial Revolution.
  • 1953: Elizabeth II was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom. During the ceremony, she put on a simple white linen dress. Truly a fabric of the sacred.
  • 2010: Ushering in a new era, spinners, weavers and knitters innovate to create knitted linen and washed linen which give suppleness, elasticity and a wrinkle-resistant character to linen.
  • 2012: Alliance for European Flax-Linen & Hemp publishes benchmark works co-edited with JEC GROUP for the composite industry: Flax & Hemp Fiber Composites, a market reality - The biobased solutions for the industry.
  • 2019:  ¾ of the world’s flax is cultivated in Western Europe (France, Belgium and the Netherlands), where 124,000 hectares and 171,000 tons of long fibre were scutched.
World flax production
3/4 of the world's flax is grown in Western Europe (France, Belgium and the Netherlands).
  • 2021: The Linen Manifesto - during Fashion Revolution Week 2021, the Alliance for European Flax-Linen & Hemp mobilised the world’s flax industry via a wide-reaching, impactful digital operation.
  • 2022: The launch of the LCA – the life cycle assessment of scutched European Flax® according to the PEF (Product Environmental Footprint) evaluation method, established by the European Commission.