STS.007 | Fall 2010 | Undergraduate

Technology in History



[DC] = Christian, David. Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History. University of California Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780520244764. [Preview with Google Books]

Unit 1: Humankind as a History-making Species
1 Introduction to class and key concepts Marx, Leo. “Technology: The Emergence of a Hazardous Concept.” Technology and Culture 51 (July 2010): 561-577. (PDF)
2 What is technology? What is history (and prehistory)? Visitor: Prof. Leo Marx)

Careful rereading of Marx, “Technology…”

[DC], Chapters 6 and 7


Williams, R. “Base and Superstructure.” Chapter 2.1 in Marxism and Literature. Oxford University Press, 1978, pp. 75-82. ISBN: 9780198760610.

3 Technology in prehistory: cave art

Wade, N. “The Long Struggle Against the Neanderthals.” In Before the Dawn. Penguin Books, 2006, pp. 90-94. ISBN: 9781594200793.

Mithen, Steven. “Of Ice and Men.” The Times Educational Supplement, September 5, 2003.


Mapping the Neanderthal Genome: A Conversation with Svante Pääbo.” Edge, 7.4.09.

4 Technology in “prehistory”

Auel, J. M. Chapter 7 of The Clan of the Cave Bear. Pp. 95-112. ISBN: 9780553250428.

Goldstein, Joseph. “The New Age Cavemen and the City.” The New York Times, January 10, 2010.

5 Historical Analogies Mumford, “Democratic and Authoritarian Technics.” Technology and Culture 5, no. 1 (1964): 1-8.  
Unit 2: Civilizations Based on Agriculture
6 The Neolithic Revolution

[DC], Chapter 8

Smith, B. D. “The Ultimate Ecosystems Engineers.” Science 315 (March 30, 2007): 1797-8.

7 Introduction to MIT’s 150th anniversary: class visit to MIT archives    
8 Discuss visit to Archives

Diamond, Jared. “Twilight at Easter.” Chapter 2 in Collapse. Penguin Books, 2011. ISBN: 9780143117001.

McNeill, J. R. “Making Historical Comparisons.” American Scientist 98 (September-October 2010): 434-436.

9 Civilizations and Empires (part two) [DC], Chapter 9 (PDF)
10 Technohistorical Revolutions (part one) [DC], Chapter 10 (PDF)
11 Technohistorical Revolutions (part two) [DC], Chapter 11 (PDF)
12 Agrarian Civilizations (part one): megalithic agrarian civilizations    
13 Agrarian Civilizations (part two): the Roman Empire as an agrarian civilization


Bohannon, J. “The Nile Delta’s Sinking Future.” Science 327, no. 5972 (March 19, 2010): 1444-1447.

Unit 3: Civilizations Based on Fossil Fuels
14 The Industrial Revolution

[DC], Chapter 12

Jennings, H. Selections 47, 51, 70, 86, 100, 103, 119, 125, 130, 137, 174 in Pandaemonium 1660-1886: The Coming of the Machine as Seen by Contemporary Observers. The Free Press, 1985. ISBN: 9780029164709.

15 Visit to MIT Museum [DC], Chapter 13 (PDF)
16 The Second Industrial Revolution (part one)    
17 The Second Industrial Revolution (part two)

Marx, K., and F. Engels. Communist Manifesto. Part One (Bourgeois and Proletarians).

Schivelbusch, W. Disenchanted Night: The Industrialization of Light. University of California Press, 1995, pp. 58-78, 213-221. ISBN: 9780520203549. [Preview with Google Books]

-—. “Panoramic Travel.” Chapter 4 in The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century. University of California Press, 1987, pp. 52-69. ISBN: 9780520059290. [Preview with Google Books]


Mintz, S. W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin Books, 1986, pp. 47-73, 166-186. ISBN: 9780140092332.

Unit 4: Human Empire
18 The Second Industrial Revolution (part three) First half of Hersey, J. Hiroshima. Vintage, 1989 [originally published in The New Yorker, 1946]. ISBN: 9780679721031.  
19 The Second Industrial Revolution (part four) Finish Hersey, Hiroshima.  

From Industry to Battlefield

Chemical Engineering at MIT

[DC], Chapter 14 (PDF)
21 Ground Zero (part one)

Selections from Miyagawa, S., and J. Dower. Visualizing Cultures.

22 Ground Zero (part two)    
23 Looking Back and Beyond: General review of MIT 150


Buy at MIT Press Williams, R. Chapter 1 (excerpt) and chapter 2 in Retooling: A Historian Confronts Technological Change. The MIT Press, 2002, pp. 18-89. ISBN: 9780262232234. [Preview with Google Books]

Terborgh, J. “The World Is in Overshoot.” The New York Review of Books, December 3, 2009, pp. 45-47.

24 Looking Back and Beyond: Presentations and discussion on “what is the role of technology in history?” [DC], Chapter 15  
25 Looking Back and Beyond: Presentations and discussion on “what is the role of technology in history?”    

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2010
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments