The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History Since 1900

David Edgerton, Author . Oxford Univ. $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-19-532283-5

A class titled History of Modern Technology 101 would probably focus on electricity, mass production, the automobile and the Internet, but according to British historian Edgerton, it would miss the real history of 20th-century technology. We should pay less attention to novelty and invention, he argues, and more to the technologies that people actually use in their daily lives—"a whole invisible world of technologies," many of which have served the poor more than the rich, such as corrugated metal and flat-pack IKEA furniture. Ranging across broad swaths of history, Edgerton offers multiple examples of overlooked technologies that are far more important than they might initially seem, including the condom and the sewing machine, as well as innovations in killing, such as insecticides, slaughterhouses and chemical warfare. The result, while sometimes overly pedantic for nonhistorians, is a provocative challenge to students of technology. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/20/2006
Release date: 01/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 479 pages - 978-1-84765-067-2
Paperback - 270 pages - 978-1-86197-306-1
Paperback - 270 pages - 978-0-19-983261-3
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