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Hardcover | $11.75 Short | £8.95 | ISBN: 9780262012027 | 576 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 52 illus.| September 2003

The Government Machine

A Revolutionary History of the Computer

About the Author

Jon Agar directed the UK National Archive for the History of Computing from 1994 to 2001. He is the author of Science and Spectacle: The Work of Jodrell Bank in Postwar British Culture, Turing and the Universal Machine: The Making of the Modern Computer, and Constant Touch: A Global History of the Mobile Phone.


“In this richly detailed and subtly argued study of British bureaucracy since the eighteenth century, Agar shows how mechanization, both discursive and material, gradually transformed the 'machinery of government' from a metaphor to a guiding force. Viewed in that longer historical perspective, the computer takes its place in a line of technologies inspired by a technocratic vision of public administration and designed to extend the informational resources on which it rests. In bringing out historically specific differences between the development of computing in Britain and the United States, Agar provides new ground for discussions of the social forces that have shaped computing and been shaped by it”
Michael S. Mahoney, Professor of History, Princeton University
The Government Machine is a major contribution to our understanding of the history of computing. Agar deploys metaphor and analysis like a two-edged sword to cut through two centuries of British bureaucracy and calculation, revealing a striking view of why the computer came to play a central role in politics. I highly recommend this book to anyone who prefers history to hype and analysis to anecdote.”
Robert W. Seidel, History of Science & Technology Program, University of Minnesota
“John Agar's book provides a compelling analysis of a key element of the modern era: the systematic operation of government. It is an important work, and it provides new theories of how governments gave us the metaphor of organization as machine and adopted systematic procedures, statistical methods and electronic computers.”
David Alan Grier, Associate Professor of Computer Scinece and International Affairs, George Washington University