Engineering Empires

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Overview

Engineers are empire-builders. James Watt, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Robert Stephenson and a host of less well known figures worked to build and expand personal and business empires of material technology founded on and sustained by durable networks of trust and expertise. In so doing these engineers and their heirs also became active agents of political and economic empire. Indeed, steamships, railways and electric telegraph systems increasingly complemented one another to form what one early twentieth-century telegraph engineer aptly termed 'our most powerful weapon in the cause of Inter-Imperial Commerce'. This book provides an exploration of the cultural construction of the large-scale technologies of empire.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Smith and Marsden provide here a brilliant and concise analysis of the figure of the Nineteenth-Century British engineer and the social and technical significance of engineering's work...The book will be indispensable for historians, technologists and anyone interesed in the roots of the current relation between applied knowledge and the wider society." - Professor Simon Schaffer, University of Cambridge

"At last! This is the history of British technology we have been waiting for. When we open up the steam machines we find not just the cogs and wheels, but people of all sorts, stories that surprise, and all working in a cultural context of the highest sophistication. Marsden and Smith's cultural history matchs the best in new nineteenth century scholarship." - Dr Jon Agar, author of Turing and the Universal Machine: The Making of the Modern Computer

 

"Highly recommended." —CHOICE

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780333772782
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 3/1/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Ben Marsden is Lecturer in Cultural History, University of Aberdeen.

Crosbie Smith is Professor of History of Science at the University of Kent.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : technology, science and culture in the long nineteenth century 1
1 'Objects of national importance' : exploration, mapping and measurement 12
2 Power and wealth : reputations and rivalries in steam culture 41
3 Belief in steamers : making trustworthy the iron steamship 88
4 Building railway empires : promises in space and time 129
5 'The most gigantic electrical experiment' : the trials of telegraphy 178
Conclusion : cultures of technological expertise 226
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