A Culture of Improvement: Technology and the Western by Robert Friedel

By Robert Friedel

Why does expertise switch through the years, how does it switch, and what distinction does it make? during this sweeping, formidable examine one thousand years of Western event, Robert Friedel argues that technological switch comes mostly during the pursuit of improvement--the deep-rooted trust that issues can be performed in a greater manner. What Friedel calls the "culture of development" is manifested on a daily basis within the methods humans perform their projects in life--from tilling fields and elevating kids to waging war.Improvements may be ephemeral or lasting, and one person's development would possibly not continually be seen as such by way of others. Friedel stresses the social procedures wherein we outline what advancements are and judge which advancements will final and in an effort to now not. those techniques, he emphasizes, have created either winners and losers in history.Friedel provides a sequence of narratives of Western expertise that start within the 11th century and stretch into the twenty-first. usual figures from the historical past of invention are joined through others--the Italian preacher who defined the 1st eyeglasses, the dairywomen displaced from their regulate over cheesemaking, and the little-known engineer who first instructed a grand tower to Gustav Eiffel. Friedel strains know-how from the plow and the printing press to the inner combustion engine, the transistor, and the distance travel. Friedel additionally reminds us that religion in development can occasionally have awful outcomes, as greater weaponry makes struggle ever extra lethal and the force for making improvements to people may end up in eugenics or even genocide. the main accomplished try and inform the tale of Western expertise in lots of years, engagingly written and lavishly illustrated, A tradition of development files the ways that the force for development has formed our smooth global.

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Change in this world did not take place quickly, for the most part, and experimentation and novelty had by no means the standing and value they were to acquire for later Europeans. But novelty was not unknown, and a sober assessment of the Middle Ages should acknowledge that, perhaps for the first time in human experience, there was emerging a society in which improvement—small but visible—was coming to be seen as part of human capabilities in the world. 3 Power On the first of August, in the year 1086, William—the bastard son of Robert, Duke of Normandy and a tanner’s daughter, Arlette, and for twenty years ruler and tyrant of England—convened an extraordinary assembly in the ancient English city of Salisbury.

As we shall see, this exchange of technical expertise among churchmen had spectacular results in the spread of new styles of church architecture in the High Middle Ages (after 1000), but we can infer that building was not the only subject for the exchange of technical information, expertise, and ideas. As agriculture was the primary source of sustenance and wealth for the monasteries, and the oversight of the fields was among the most important monastic occupations, no doubt the information network included the exchange of ideas and experiences for farming and husbandry.

It certainly does not seem to have occurred in other areas in which it was to prove of great advantage, such as waterpower-short portions of the Mediterranean world (like Greece or Spain). The first documented reference to a windmill comes from 1185, when records speak of a mill in eastern Yorkshire and other records of one in Sussex. Within hardly more than a decade, English documents speak of at least twenty further examples, and in the early thirteenth century the references to windmills, both in England and on the continent, multiplied in considerable numbers.

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