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Robert Friedel's A Culture of Improvement: Technology and the Western PDF

By Robert Friedel

Why does know-how switch through the years, how does it swap, and what distinction does it make? during this sweeping, bold examine one thousand years of Western event, Robert Friedel argues that technological swap comes mostly in the course of the pursuit of improvement--the deep-rooted trust that issues may 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 teenagers to waging war.Improvements should be ephemeral or lasting, and one person's development won't consistently be seen as such via others. Friedel stresses the social approaches through which we outline what advancements are and judge which advancements will final and in an effort to now not. those methods, he emphasizes, have created either winners and losers in history.Friedel offers a sequence of narratives of Western know-how that commence within the 11th century and stretch into the twenty-first. generic figures from the historical past of invention are joined through others--the Italian preacher who defined the 1st eyeglasses, the dairywomen displaced from their keep an eye on over cheesemaking, and the little-known engineer who first steered a grand tower to Gustav Eiffel. Friedel lines know-how from the plow and the printing press to the inner combustion engine, the transistor, and the distance go back and forth. Friedel additionally reminds us that religion in development can occasionally have awful outcomes, as enhanced weaponry makes war ever extra lethal and the force for bettering people may end up in eugenics or even genocide. the main accomplished try and inform the tale of Western know-how in lots of years, engagingly written and lavishly illustrated, A tradition of development records the ways that the force for development has formed our glossy international.

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The natural thing was thus to reduce the number of turns to a minimum, and hence elongate the plow furrow as much as possible. Of course, the actual length in any field depended on the lay of the land and the allocations of farmers, but the English word furlong, referring simply to a furrow’s length, gives us a hint of just how long these strip furrows might ordinarily be. A furlong’s 220 yards (an eighth of a mile) might represent a kind of ideal furrow. A strip of land one furlong in length and a tenth that in width is, in fact, the definition of an acre—just what Aelfric’s plowman told us was his day’s minimum duty.

The natural thing was thus to reduce the number of turns to a minimum, and hence elongate the plow furrow as much as possible. Of course, the actual length in any field depended on the lay of the land and the allocations of farmers, but the English word furlong, referring simply to a furrow’s length, gives us a hint of just how long these strip furrows might ordinarily be. A furlong’s 220 yards (an eighth of a mile) might represent a kind of ideal furrow. A strip of land one furlong in length and a tenth that in width is, in fact, the definition of an acre—just what Aelfric’s plowman told us was his day’s minimum duty.

There is among historians much debate and contention over the true extent of water power’s use in medieval Europe and of the precise dates of its spread, but even fairly conservative treatment of the sketchy data yields some basic impressions. The waterwheel, while known to the Romans, and even perhaps to the late Greeks before them, was not used widely in classical civilization. By the high Middle Ages, that is, by the eleventh century or so, there were parts of Europe in which exploitation of water power was commonplace.

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