Technology and the Making of Europe
Since 2012 a new history of Europe has been published. The project, entitled Making Europe: Technology and Transformations, 1850-2000 takes the form of an accessible book series aimed at a broad scholarly community, ranging from historians, to social scientists, and engineers, officials and policy makers, students, and those who are simply fascinated by European history. A series of virtual exhibits accompanies the book series and opens up the research results to an even wider audience.
Why is Making Europe unique? Why is it essential reading, and not just for Europeans? The answer: By focusing on key dimensions of technological change, Making Europe’s six compelling volumes offer broad scope, sharp analysis, and critical knowledge, blending 14 distinguished historians’ skills. Learn how, where, and why technologies were fundamental to shaping modern Europe. Discover how experts, innovators, and technological institutions helped generate 150 years of European advances and disasters, divisions and re-unions. No-one has ever attempted to research modern Europe on this scale. Having completed a decade-long project, the Making Europe team now presents its results to readers everywhere. The Making Europe project is coordinated by the Foundation for the History of Technology and will be published by Palgrave Macmillan.
Making Europe’s goal is to share, with the widest possible public, stories, dilemmas, accomplishments, and enduring challenges triggered by technological change. We will do this by centering on six arenas often excluded when political/military/economic histories of Europe are drafted: infrastructure, users and consumers, non-government regulation, expertise, communications, and globalism. Let’s visit each of these for a moment. Order the first volumes of the Making Europe series here.
Users and Consumers: Consumers, Tinkerers, Rebels Since the mid-19th century, many new technologies have been “domesticated,” that is, brought into households and everyday activities (like getting to work). This volume analyzes the experiences and controversies that thereby set in motion, as Europeans learned to dream about techological futures. It investigates how European citizens – from Portugal to Russia – integrated material artifacts into their lives, arguing that this was a highly-dramatic process, involving many social actors, each with competing interests and needs. Using carefully-chosen case studies (sewing machines, home appliances), the authors provide a fresh look at the application and use of innovations and products and the emergence of user communities (bicycle and auto clubs). Most simply, readers will explore what new technologies meant for ordinary people across the European regional and national landscapes.
Expertise: Building Europe on Expertise Technological and scientific superiority underwrote Europe’s 19th century claims to global power, a claim transformed in recent generations into the more modest argument that the systematic pursuit of knowledge is essential to shared European futures. This volume will highlight the contested and ambivalent character of knowledge-creation in modern Europe, focusing on transnational networks of experts at the interfaces between states, societies, and technology/science. Case studies addressing how experts themselves were created (educated, institutionalized) or how European ‘big science’ emerged will illuminate organizational patterns and will map the multiple geographies of “Knowledge Europe.” Special emphasis will be placed on experts’ entanglement with the violence and destruction so axial to 20th century European history.
Infrastructure: Europe's Infrastructure Transition Two hundred years ago, waterways and dreadful roads were the main links among Europe’s people, enterprises, and states. Slow flows of energy (wood, coal), information and goods followed these routes, but starting in the 19th century, massive changes commenced. Railways, autos, and aviation transformed transportation; telegraph, telephone, and electric power networks revolutionized communications and energy supply. Yet many problems arose. Although the new infrastructures helped lift millions out of poverty and isolation, they also intensified conflicts and competition, facilitated “modern” warfare, and so increased energy use that ecological crises emerged. This volume asks: What kind of Europe did these processes create? How were European infrastructures designed, funded, and managed? How did infrastructure projects affect political and geographical borders, such as the Iron Curtain?
Non-government Regulation: Writing the Rules for Europe Europeans generally assume that historically, their nation-states have framed the basic conditions for their lives and work. Recently, though, individual nations’ capabilities have eroded and states have begun sharing power and authority, most notably in the European Union. This volume argues that non-state actors and institutions, often transnational, have long shaped European practices and prospects, particularly through informal cooperation within organizations that set technological standards, implemented pan-European regulations (think about railway or air traffic control), and devised durable policies. The experts handling this work advocated ‘technocratic internationalism,’ taking the politics out of policy-making. Thereby, they substituted their competences for those of feuding states, such that parts of European life were governed jointly, even when political and ideological conflicts increased, even during the Iron Curtain era.
Communications: Communicating Europe Since the early years of telegraphy, modernity at large generated and has depended upon technologies of electrical/electronic communication and information circulation: from telephone, radio, and television to the internet. This volume reveals these connecting technologies’ geopolitical importance and their crucial relationships with culture, commerce, and communities. Also the authors will critically examine their spatial dimensions and transnational implications – as material objects with particular qualities, as elements in institutional complexes, and as ‘vehicles’ carrying complex symbolic meanings. Through in-depth assessments of critical, as well as mundane, events in the history of communications and information, these analyses will significantly alter conventional perspectives both on communications and on modern European history.
Globalism: Europe Globalizing How did Europe interact with the rest of the world from 1850 through the 20th century’s close? What part did technology play in colonial and international encounters? How was Europe involved in the evolution of globalization? Europeans first succeeded in mapping, then in dominating much of the rest of the world, using technological capacities to ‘colonize’ (or even ‘civilize’) non-European cultures and to control flows of goods, people, capital and ideas. Challenges to this ambition multiplied in the 20th century (the U.S., Japan); and in the aftermath of the First World War, Europe’s leading positions faltered, reducing control to the management of long-distance commodity chains and the articulation of political and economic joint ventures. This volume seeks to combine (post-)colonial, global, and European-integration histories with a fresh perspective on technological knowledge’s and technical artifacts’ key roles in all three dynamics.