Tag Archives: History

Book : Impossible Engineering

k8911Impossible Engineering: Technology and Territoriality on the Canal du Midi

Chandra Mukerji


The Canal du Midi, which threads through southwestern France and links the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, was an astonishing feat of seventeenth-century engineering–in fact, it was technically impossible according to the standards of its day. Impossible Engineering takes an insightful and entertaining look at the mystery of its success as well as the canal’s surprising political significance. The waterway was a marvel that connected modern state power to human control of nature just as surely as it linked the ocean to the sea. Continue reading

Book : Imperial Technoscience by Amit Prasad


The origin of modern science is often located in Europe and the West. This Euro/West-centrism relegates emergent practices elsewhere to the periphery, undergirding analyses of contemporary transnational science and technology with traditional but now untenable hierarchical categories. In this book, Amit Prasad examines features of transnationality in science and technology through a study of MRI research and development in the United States, Britain, and India. In an analysis that is both theoretically nuanced and empirically robust, Prasad unravels the entangled genealogies of MRI research, practice, and culture in these three countries.
Prasad follows sociotechnical trails in relation to five aspects of MRI research: invention, industrial development, market, history, and culture. He first examines the well-known dispute between American scientists Paul Lauterbur and Raymond Damadian over the invention of MRI, then describes the post-invention emergence of the technology, as the center of MRI research shifted from Britain to the U.S; the marketing of the MRI and the transformation of MRI research into a corporate-powered “Big Science”; and MRI research in India, beginning with work in India’s nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) laboratories in the 1940s. Finally, he explores the different dominant technocultures in each of the three countries, analyzing scientific cultures as shifting products of transnational histories rather than static products of national scientific identities and cultures. Prasad’s analysis offers not only an innovative contribution to current debates within science and technology studies but also an original postcolonial perspective on the history of cutting-edge medical technology.


Book : The Colonial Machine: French Science and Overseas Expansion in the Old Regime

colonial machineThe rise of modern science and European colonial and imperial expansion are indisputably two defining elements of modern world history. James E. McClellan III and François Regourd explore these two world-historical forces and their interactions in this comprehensive and in-depth history of the French case in the Old Regime presented here for the first time. The case is key because no other state matched Old-Regime France as a center for organized science and because contemporary France closely rivaled Britain as a colonial power, as well as leading all other nations in commodity production and participating in the slave trade.
Based on extensive archival research and vast primary and secondary literatures and sharply reframing the historiography of the field, this landmark volume traces the development and significance for early-modern history of the Colonial Machine of Old-Regime France, an unparalleled agglomeration of institutions geared to the success of the French colonial enterprise, including the Royal Navy, the Académie Royale des Sciences, the Jardin du Roi, and a host of related specialist institutions working together at home and overseas. Mainly supported by the French state, the Colonial Machine reveals itself through its actions from the time of Colbert and Louis XIV as it grappled with fundamental problems facing contemporary European colonialism: cartography and navigation; medical care of sailors, colonists, and slaves; and applied botany and commodity production.
Historians of globalization and European overseas expansion, of Old-Regime France, and of science in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries will henceforth take this stimulating volume as a necessary starting point for further reflection and research

Book : Technology and Rural Change in Eastern India 1830-1980

The book discusses how Western technology, primarily the means of transport and manufacture, changed the Indian village. Technology reached India through colonialism, as also through corporate bodies and private enterprise. The study is based on British Bengal, which correspondis to present-day West Bengal and Bangladesh. British Bengal also included Bihar, Orissa, and Assam for intermediary periods-these areas have also been frequently referred to by way of illustration.

With Calcutta as the hub, eastern India was the gateway of technology transmission to India. Underneath the relatively known areas of technology build-up, there was an inner layer of its transmission from the colonial metropolis to the interior, which is much less known. This book, a social history of technology in the main, analyses the context and results of technology induction to the village, such as the railways redrawing the morphology of rural settlement, the new tools-led empowerment of artisans, or their dispossession due to mechanization.

While technology improved the quality of life in the West, it largely failed to mitigate poverty in rural India. The book addresses why it failed to accelerate development in India. Based on local level sources, the work blends hard data with folk usage, oral tradition, songs, sayings, and vernacular literature, thereby infusing into the text both a life and a historical insight most often ignored.

Call for papers : History of aluminium (19th-20th century)

L’aluminium, matière à création

XIXe-XXIe siècles
Colloque international
École des Hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris
11 et 12 décembre 2014
Matériau de la seconde industrialisation, symbole du progrès de la science puis de la « modernité », l’aluminium fait l’objet de perceptions contrastées : adoubé par certains créateurs (designers, couturiers, artistes), métal de l’exploit et la performance scientifique, technique ou sportive,  il  a dans d’autres domaines du monde social une image moins forte, car la banalité est moins glorieuse.
Pour ce dernier colloque de l’ANR Créalu, il s’agit de mettre en lumière, par une démarche pluridisciplinaire, les processus créatifs à l’œuvre depuis la découverte et l’invention d’un matériau nouveau au milieu du XIXe siècle : création d’un secteur industriel allant de la mine de bauxite aux objets du quotidien, réception et usages des produits de consommation courante ou d’exception, appropriation par les sociétés dans un contexte de globalisation. Continue reading

One Valley and a Thousand: Dams, Nationalism, and Development by Daniel Klingensmith,

 By the end of the twentieth century, more then 45,000 large dams were built world wide displacing millions of people, and dramatically altering both ecosystems and social systems centered on rivers. A majority of these dams were constructed after 1945. This book seeks to explain the enormous global investment in dams since 1945 and explores their connections to political ideologies. It shows the lack of concern and awareness of policymakers and electorates about the human tragedies. It also sheds light on the disappointing performace of many river valley projects. The author traces the history of the politics and the political culture that influenced economic and technical decisions in the creation of particular dams in India and the United States. In doing so, he contributes to a broader discussion on the politcal significance of dams worldwide, and of the connections between development and nationalism. Continue reading

Article : Historical Validity of Mullaperiyar Project by R. Seenivasan, EPW

This historical analysis of the Periyar project questions the arguments and some of the contemporary claims made about the project’s engineering and construction, and its environmental impact. Far from being an environmentally destructive project, this was a “pacifist” scheme when it was built. The article throws light on these issues by analysing historical documents.

url : http://www.epw.in/commentary/historical-validity-mullaperiyar-project.html

Publication : Engineers in India : Industrialisation, Indianisation and the State, 1900-47

Aparajith Ramnath, Engineers in India : Industrialisation, Indianisation and the State, 1900-47. Ph.D. Thesis. Imperial College London,  2013

“This thesis offers a collective portrait of an important group of scientific and technical practitioners in India from 1900 to 1947: professional engineers. It focuses on engineers working in three key sectors: public works, railways and private industry. Based on a range of little-used sources, it charts the evolution of the profession in terms of the composition, training, employment patterns and work culture of its members. The thesis argues that changes in the profession were both caused by and contributed to two important, contested transformations in interwar Indian society: the growth of large-scale private industry (industrialisation), and the increasing proportion of ‘native’ Indians in government services and private firms (Indianisation). Continue reading

Book: History of Technical Intelligence

Hélène Verin, La Gloire des Ingénieurs: l’Intelligence Technique du XVIe au XVIIe siècle, Paris, Albin Michel, 1993

“Bâtisseur du progrès ou homme d’artifices, l’ingénieur est une figure centrale du mythe de la modernité. Héraut du génie à la Renaissance, il triomphe dans l’organisation industrielle au temps de Jules Verne.Ce livre nous invite, à travers une abondante littérature, peu connue ou inédite, à délaisser le mythe pour pénétrer dans l’histoire profuse et vivante des ingénieurs. Ouvrant l’espace de la technique, dans la société comme dans la connaissance, au confluent d’intérêts contraires et à la rencontre du savoir et du faire, de l’esprit et de la matière, les ingénieurs sont en quête d’un autre “Discours de la méthode”. Dès le XVIe siècle, ils s’appliquent à anticiper par le calcul les effets de leurs artifices, pour en augmenter les avantages. Soucieux d’instrumenter au plus juste les mathématiques, ils réfléchissent sur les vertus de la modélisation, de la normalisation de la science des systèmes et sont, à la fin du XVIIIe siècle, au coeur du débat sur les avantages et les inconvénients de l’industrialisation.”

Bengal Engineering College (1856)

Established in 1856 as the Bishop’s College, Bengal Engineering College (since 1921) and now Bengal Engineering and Science University (since 2004) is one of the foremost institutions providing technical education in India. It has been a pioneering institution which contributed significantly to the development of modern India. We present here some vignettes of this long journey from the Centenary Souvenir of the BE College published in 1956. (Campus sketches by Kaushik Basu, a student of Electrical Engineering)






1. Logo

2. Photo1

3. Photo2



Book: The Social Construction of Technology

Wiebe E. Bijker, Thomas P. Hughes, Trevor Pinch (eds). The Social Construction of Technological Systems. New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press: Cambridge (Massachusetts), London (England). 1999.

“The impact of technology on society is clear and unmistakable. The influence of society on technology is more subtle. The 13 essays in this book draw on a wide array of case studies from cooking stoves to missile systems, from 15th­century Portugal to today’s AI labs – to outline an original research program based on a synthesis of ideas from the social studies of science and the history of technology. Together they affirm the need for a study of technology that gives equal weight to technical, social, economic, and political questions.”

Table of Contents


1. Trevor Pinch and Wiebe E. Bijker.The Social Construction of Facts and Artifacts. Or How the Sociology of Science and the Sociology of Technology Might Benefit Each Other

2. Thomas P. Hughes. The Evolution of Large Technological Systems

3. Michel Callon. Society in the Making The Study of Technology as a Tool for Sociological Analysis

4. John Law. Technology and Heterogeneous Engineering The Case of Portuguese Expansion

5. Henk van den Belt and Arie Rip. The Nelson-Winter-Dosi Model and Synthetic Dye Chemistry

6. Wiebe E. Bijker. The Social Construction of Bakelite Toward a Theory of Invention

7. Donald MacKenzie. Missile AccuracyA Case of Study in the Social Processes of Technological Change

8. Edward W. Constant. The Social Locus of Technological Practice Community, System, or Organization, III

9. Henk J.H.W. Bodewitz, Henk Buurma and Gerard H. de Vries. Regulatory Science and the Social Management of Trust in Medicine

10. Ruth Schwartz Cowan. The Consumption Junction. A Proposal for Research Strategies in the Sociology of Technology

11. Edward Yoxen. Seeing with SoundA Study of the Development of Medical Images

12. Steve Woolgar. Reconstructing Man and MachineA Note on Sociological Critiques of Cognitivism.

13. Harry M. Collins. Expert Systems and the Science of Knowledge

About the Editors

Wiebe E. Bijker is Professor of Technology & Society at the University of Maastricht.

Thomas P. Hughes is Professor of the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

Trevor Pinch is Professor of Science and Technology Studies and Professor of Sociology at Cornell University. He is the coeditor of How Users Matter: The Co-Construction of Users and Technology (MIT Press, 2003) and the coauthor of Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer and other books.




Book: The Chemical Industry in Europe

Ernst Homburg, Anthony S. Travis, Harm G. Schröter (eds), The Chemical Industry in Europe, 1850-1914: Industrial Growth, Pollution and Professionalization, Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1998

“This book analyses the development of the chemical industry during the Second Industrial Revolution in a large number of European countries. It is the first book-length study of the European chemical industry that pays proper attention to the importance of environmental issues, and to the role of the chemical profession both in industrial and in environmental matters. It is intended for a large audience of historians of technology and chemistry, social historians, economic and business historians, and historians of the environment.”

Contributors:  Ernst Homburg, Anthony S. Travis, Christian Simon, Hans Jorgen Styhr Petersen, Paolo Amat di San Filippo, Roman Mierzecki, Anders Lundgren, Harm G. Schröter,Sarah Wilmot, Peter Reed, Arne Andersen, James Donnelly, Stuart Bennett, Carsten Reinhardt, Wolfgang Wimmer, Gérard Emptoz, Anne-Claire Déré