A World History

Book - 2009
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Today technology has created a world of dazzling progress, growing disparities of wealth and poverty, and looming threats to the environment. Technology: A World History offers an illuminating backdrop to our present moment--a brilliant history of invention around the globe. Historian DanielR. Headrick ranges from the Stone Age and the beginnings of agriculture to the Industrial Revolution and the electronic revolution of the recent past. In tracing the growing power of humans over nature through increasingly powerful innovations, he compares the evolution of technology in differentparts of the world, providing a much broader account than is found in other histories of technology. We also discover how small changes sometimes have dramatic results--how, for instance, the stirrup revolutionized war and gave the Mongols a deadly advantage over the Chinese. And how the nailedhorseshoe was a pivotal breakthrough for western farmers. Enlivened with many illustrations, Technology offers a fascinating look at the spread of inventions around the world, both as boons for humanity and as weapons of destruction.
Publisher: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2009
ISBN: 9780195156485
Characteristics: ix, 179 p. : ill. ; 25 cm


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Feb 02, 2018

This is the kind of book I wish we could give to middle- and high school students. It gives a sweeping overview of the themes of technological development and assesses its impact on civilization, both locally and globally.

This was filled with fascinating insights. Here are a few that stood out for me:

+ While scientific training is now thought of as a prerequisite for technological innovations, previously science was used to explain technology that had already been invented.

+ For as much as people go on about the ennui 20th century women experienced as a result of labor-saving household devices, the majority of women did not find that these devices saved work. They are better thought of as a product of increased consumerism and a symptom of demands for a more fastidious standard of living.

+ China and the Muslim world took great strides not only in invention but in scientific understanding. Their decline in those subjects was due to the Mongol invasion, which caused China to view anything innovative (or especially "foreign") with suspicion, and caused the empires of the Muslim world to become cautious and conservative. Even if there continued to be breakthroughs on an individual level, because of the autocratic nature of those systems it would be difficult to disseminate the information if the official policy opposed it.

+ European technology thrived for three reasons: 1) it utilized ignored technology from Asia, 2) its governments were more decentralized and 3) they weren't attacked by the Mongols.

+ China did not suffer from eschewing scientific advances for centuries because it dragged as much efficiency as it could from what they had, using both increased labor and improved skill. However, this advantage was effectively negated by the 18th century.

+ Groundbreaking inventions are always copied, and thus technological advantage is hard to maintain for a long period of time.

+ The Chinese and the Russians were aware of the power and advantages guns could offer their military. They consciously ignored them far longer than their Western contemporaries out of concern that rebellious factions of their population would use them just as effectively as their military.

+ While Peru and other early American civilizations lacked sophisticated implements, they did have complicated and effective systems of agricultural organization (among others) that could by themselves be considered a technology.

And so on. This was a fascinating book that I finished in a day and a half. Highly recommended for history enthusiasts.

Jul 29, 2015

This would be a good book for people that likes technology.


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