The Shock of the Old

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

3.5 (233 ratings by Goodreads)

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From the books of H.G. Wells to the press releases of NASA, we are awash in cliched claims about high technology's ability to change the course of history. Now, in The Shock of the Old, David Edgerton offers a startling new and fresh way of thinking about the history of technology, radically revising our ideas about the interaction of technology and society in the past and in the present. He challenges us to view the history of technology in terms of what everyday people have actually used-and continue to use-rather than just sophisticated inventions. Indeed, many highly touted technologies, from the V-2 rocket to the Concorde jet, have been costly failures, while many mundane discoveries, like corrugated iron, become hugely important around the world. Edgerton reassesses the significance of such acclaimed inventions as the Pill and information technology, and underscores the continued importance of unheralded technology, debunking many notions about the implications of the "information age." A provocative history, The Shock of the Old provides an entirely new way of looking historically at the relationship between invention and innovation. "show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 270 pages
  • 154.94 x 236.22 x 25.4mm | 521.63g
  • Oxford University Press, USA
  • Oxford, England, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • 0195322835
  • 9780195322835
  • 565,666

About Hans Rausing Professor David Edgerton

David Edgerton is the Hans Rausing Professor at Imperial College, London, where he was the founding director of the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and more

Review quote

"Provocative, concise, and elegant..."The Shock of the Old" is a necessary reminder of just how important things are in our lives, and how important we are in the life of things."--The New Yorker "Most histories of technology and considerations of the interaction of technology and society stress invention and innovation. Thus accounts of the 20th century typically progress from automobiles, airplanes, and radio through rockets, nuclear power, and computers to today's frontiers of information, biotechnology, and nanotechnology. In opposition to this future-focused approach, Edgerton offers a convincing case that we ought to pay far more attention to what people actually used and still use... fresh and accessible account..."--Science Magazine "The Shock of the Old is a pathbreaking work...a bold and necessarily preliminary reconnaissance, in brief, in the direction of a comprehensively contextualized view of technology."--American Scientist "The history of technology is often told as a history of key inventions: the electric light bulb, the motor car, nuclear weapons, and so on. The Shock of the Old is a lucid and completely convincing rebuttal of that received narrative.--Journal of American History "David Edgerton's book has a provocative thesis that will stimulate considerable discussion. The Shock of the Old will surely appear on professorial reading lists for both undergraduate and graduate students, as well as attracting the interest of general readers."--Isis, The Journal of the History of Science Society "This refreshing new book offers a wonderfully sobering antidote to the neotechnophilia that often characterizes our society. In his romp through20th-century technology, Edgerton marvels not at the progression of new technologies but at the persistence of old ones and the ways in which they have shaped, and continue to shape, the fabric of our lives. He challenges the innovation-centered stories that have come to dominate recent histories of technology and instead exposes the ways in which the old is sustained."--Chemical Heritage "Edgertons call for an appreciation of the ongoing significance of old technology is a much needed corrective to technological futurism."--KronoScope, Journal of the Study of Time "Resembling a technological Charles Darwin, Edgerton convinces his readers through the sheer weight of examples...Edgerton has splendidly brought together many specialized studies into a single polemical volume. Drawing on an impressively wide range of secondary literature, he presents his arguments accessibly and with political verve, making this a splendid book for students as well as the notorious 'general reader'."--British Journal for the History of Science "The Shock of the Old is a fascinating recasting of twentieth century history, but it is also a story for the present and the future."--Booknotes Australia "David Edgerton is on to something very important.The Shock of the Old is one book that I intend to savour slowly and use."--David S. Landes, author of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations and The Unbound Prometheus "Edgerton arrestingly challenges the claim that hi-tech innovation is essential for progress and prosperity in the contemporary world. He tells us why a variety of old technologies--from spinning wheels and rickshaws to mosquito netting--play essential roles in today's global life. Afascinating, thought-provoking book."--Daniel J. Kevles, author of In the Name of Eugenics and The Baltimore Case "In this eminently readable book, David Edgerton takes a welcome fresh look at the nature of technology. He does not just recite the familiar heroic leaps of invention, nor does he serve as a cheerleader for inflated promises of future breakthroughs; rather, he emphasizes the importance of the workaday world of things that are so much a part of what it means to live in the technological present."--Henry Petroski, author of To Engineer Is Human and The Evolution of Useful Things "As fascinating in its details as in its arguments. In compact form and accessible prose, Edgerton offers a new vision of modern technological history, emphasizing staying power rather than novelty. A rewarding read, it should become a standard in its field."--J.R. McNeill, author of Something New Under the Sun "David Edgerton is an historian with an economist's eye. He can deliver a cost-benefit analysis of the V-2 rocket and yet dig out hundreds of historian's tales, of the rickshaw still in use, and the killing lines in meatpacking. By asking us to look at the history of actual use and actual advantage, he demolishes scores of myths: about Teflon, DDT, the Atomic bomb, motor transport, and maintaining your office building. This is technological history brought out of the Romantic age of the Hero Inventor, male, Western, imperial. Edgerton's heroism is our common human ingenuity, in the Rio slum and in the Cambridge laboratory."--Deirdre McCloskey, Professor of History and of Economics, University of Illinois at Chicago "Edgerton's emphasis on the continued importance of so-calledold and obsolete technologies is a much-needed remedy for modern hype about the latest and greatest 'revolutionary' technological innovation, and he offers a host of new insights into technology's past and present."--Choiceshow more

Rating details

233 ratings
3.5 out of 5 stars
5 17% (39)
4 34% (80)
3 34% (80)
2 12% (27)
1 3% (7)
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