Why does technology change over time, how does it change, and what difference does it make? In this sweeping, ambitious look at a thousand years of Western experience, Robert Friedel argues that technological change comes largely through the pursuit of improvement—the deep-rooted belief that things could be done in a better way. What Friedel calls the "culture of improvement" is manifested every day in the ways people carry out their tasks in life—from tilling fields and raising children to waging war.
Who are you? And how can you prove it? How were individuals described and identified in the centuries before photography and fingerprinting, in a world without centralized administrations, where names and addresses were constantly changing? In Who are You?, Valentin Groebner traces the early modern European history of identification practices and identity papers. The documents, seals, stamps, and signatures were—and are—powerful tools that created the double of a person in writ and bore the indelible signs of bureaucratic authenticity.
This startlingly original (and sure to be controversial) account of the evolution of Christianity shows that the economics of religion has little to do with counting the money in the collection basket and much to do with understanding the background of today's religious and political divisions. Since religion is a set of organized beliefs, and a church is an organized body of worshippers, it's natural to use a science that seeks to explain the behavior of organizations—economics—to understand the development of organized religion.
At its founding, Boston was a small peninsula; over the last 375 years the city has doubled in size by filling in the surrounding tidal flats—areas covered with water at high tide and exposed at low. In Walking Tours of Boston's Made Land, historian Nancy Seasholes outlines twelve walks that trace where and why Boston's man-made land was created, and, along the way, uncovers fascinating and little-known pieces of Boston history.
In Frontiers, Michael Redclift examines the relationship between nature and society in frontier areas—contested zones in which rival versions of civil society vie with one another, often over the definition and management of nature itself.
Race and technology are two of the most powerful motifs in American history, but until recently they have not often been considered in relation to each other. This collection of essays examines the intersection of the two in a variety of social and technological contexts, pointing out, as the subtitle (borrowed from Brooke Hindle's classic 1966 work Early American Technology) puts it, the "needs and opportunities for study."
When Jean-Pierre Vernant first published Myth and Thought among the Greeks in 1965, it transformed the field of ancient Greek scholarship, calling forth a new way to think about Greek myth and thought.
How does the funeral oration relate to democracy in ancient Greece? How did the death of an individual citizen-soldier become the occasion to praise the city of Athens? In The Invention of Athens, Nicole Loraux traces the different rhetoric, politics, and ideology of funeral orations—epitaphioi—from Thucidydes, Gorgias, Lysias, and Demosthenes to Plato. Arguing that the ceremony of public burial began circa 508-460 BCE, Loraux demonstrates that the institution of the funeral oration developed under Athenian democracy.
The early modern genre of historia connected the study of nature and the study of culture from the early Renaissance to the eighteenth century. The ubiquity of historia as a descriptive method across a variety of disciplines—including natural history, medicine, antiquarianism, and philology—indicates how closely intertwined these scholarly pursuits were in the early modern period. The essays collected in this volume demonstrate that historia can be considered a key epistemic tool of early modern intellectual practices.