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Technology: A World History (New Oxford World History)



Technology: A World History (New Oxford World History)

Author: Daniel R. Headrick

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Genres:

Publish Date: April 1, 2009

ISBN-10: 0195338219

Pages: 200

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

The history of humans and technology is a long one, going back millions of years to the use of stones as tools and to their fashioning into more effi cient devices through skillful fl aking. Ancient peoples discovered the use of fi re as a survival technology, onlymuch later devising increasingly complicated systems of water management for irrigation and later still for hydroelectric power and many other uses. As communications technology developed closer to our own times, it brought people into greater contact and made them more knowledgeable and cosmopolitan. Medical and agricultural technology improved life expectancy, especially in our modern era; artifi cial organs could replace dying ones, and chemical and nuclear medicines could stop diseases such as cancers in their tracks.

Although such technology appears to have an exclusively personal function, making life more pleasant and effi cient, ambitious leaders of ancient and more recent times have commandeered technology to help them build states and to conquer other peoples. Aqueducts stretching for hundreds of miles and the building of ships for warfare and trade were among the technologies that allowed leaders of states to maintain and expand their power. Increasingly, the comparatively simple weaponry of Stone Age people gave way to more complex machinery for conquest and destruction, weaponry that has been put to ever more devastating use in the past century.

It is hardly surprising, then, that people have had ambivalent feelings about technology of all sorts—and not just about the sophisticated machines of our own day. Pliny the Elder in the fi rst century ce praised iron for its ability to cut stone and fell trees: “But this metal serves also for war, murder and robbery,” he wrote in Natural History, “and this I hold to be the most blameworthy product of the human mind.” Critics have also charged technology with pollution and other devastating effects on the natural world. For all its ability to provide increasing ease for the world’s inhabitants, the case for technology’s drawbacks is a powerful one, showing the tensions produced by the universal human capacity to invent.

This book is part of the New Oxford World History, an innovative series that offers readers an informed, lively, and up-to-date history of the world and its people that represents a signifi cant change from the “old” world history. Only a few years ago, world history generally amounted to a history of the West—Europe and the United States—with small amounts of information from the rest of the world. Some versions of the old world history drew attention to every part of the world except Europe and the United States. Readers of that kind of world history could get the impression that somehow the rest of the world was made up of exotic people who had strange customs and spoke difficult languages. Still another kind of old world history presented the story of areas or peoples of the world by focusing primarily on the achievements of great civilizations. One learned of great buildings, infl uential world religions, and mighty rulers but little of ordinary people or more general economic and social patterns. Interactions among the world’s peoples were often told from only one perspective.

This series tells world history differently. First, it is comprehensive, covering all countries and regions of the world and investigating the total human experience—even those of “peoples without histories” living far from the great civilizations. “New” world historians thus share an interest in all of human history, even going back millions of years before there were written human records. A few new world histories even extend their focus to the entire universe, a “big history” perspective that dramatically shifts the beginning of the story back to the Big Bang. Some see the new global framework of world history today as viewing the world from the vantage point of the moon, as one scholar put it. We agree. But we also want to take a close-up view, analyzing and reconstructing the signifi cant experiences of all of humanity.

 

Contents
Editors’ Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii
CHAPTER 1 Stone Age Technology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
CHAPTER 2 Hydraulic Civilizations (4000–1500 bce). . . . . . .17
CHAPTER 3 Iron, Horses, and Empires
(1500 bce–500 ce) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .35
CHAPTER 4 Postclassical and Medieval Revolutions
(500–1400) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .51
CHAPTER 5 An Age of Global Interactions (1300–1800) . . . . .71
CHAPTER 6 The First Industrial Revolution (1750–1869) . . . .91
CHAPTER 7 The Acceleration of Change (1869–1939) . . . . .111
CHAPTER 8 Toward a Postindustrial World
(1939–2007) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .130
Chronology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151
Further Reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155
Web Sites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161


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