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

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 adventure, Robert Friedel argues that technological swap comes principally throughout the pursuit of improvement--the deep-rooted trust that issues will be performed in a greater approach. What Friedel calls the "culture of development" is manifested on a daily basis within the methods humans perform their initiatives in life--from tilling fields and elevating teenagers to waging war.Improvements should be ephemeral or lasting, and one person's development would possibly not consistently be seen as such by way of others. Friedel stresses the social methods in which we outline what advancements are and judge which advancements will final and so one can now not. those techniques, he emphasizes, have created either winners and losers in history.Friedel offers a chain of narratives of Western know-how that start within the 11th century and stretch into the twenty-first. ordinary figures from the heritage of invention are joined by way of others--the Italian preacher who defined the 1st eyeglasses, the dairywomen displaced from their regulate over cheesemaking, and the little-known engineer who first prompt a grand tower to Gustav Eiffel. Friedel strains expertise from the plow and the printing press to the interior combustion engine, the transistor, and the gap go back and forth. Friedel additionally reminds us that religion in development can occasionally have awful results, as stronger weaponry makes conflict ever extra lethal and the force for making improvements to people can result in eugenics or even genocide. the main complete try and inform the tale of Western expertise in lots of years, engagingly written and lavishly illustrated, A tradition of development records the ways that the force for development has formed our smooth global.

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For battle use, however, the desired horse was the destrier, typically ridden by only the wealthiest knights and nobles. The properly trained destrier could move steadily from a walk to a canter to a full-fledged but controlled gallop while carrying a fully armored warrior. Their expense made them precious indeed, even at the height of chivalry. 8 The European Middle Ages, as commonly conceived, covers a very large span of historical time—roughly a thousand years from the fifth to the fifteenth centuries.

It might have been part of the plowman’s tool, but was not mentioned simply because, being made of wood and not precious iron, it did not have to be fastened each morning to the plow. Whatever the case, the moldboard’s use appears to have spread slowly through central and northern Europe until by the thirteenth century it was common. There remained a great variety of plow types throughout Europe, defined by region, crop, economy, and probably simply the varying skills and habits of plowrights. The overall e¤ectiveness of the medieval tool, however, when compared with its classical predecessor, was unquestionably advanced.

The social standing or legal rights of a tenant were sometimes linked to e¤orts made to improve the productivity of the land or of the labor applied to it. At the same time, medieval iconography changed and pictures began appearing that reflected the importance and dignity of manual labor. The ‘‘labors of the months’’ came to be standard decorations in calendars (which were, of course, generally church documents), realistically showing individuals engaged in a single identifiable kind of work, generally on the farm.

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