A Social History of American Technology / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Rent from BN.com
(Save 83%)
Est. Return Date: 12/21/2014
Buy Used
Buy Used from BN.com
(Save 34%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $6.88
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 89%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (21) from $6.88   
  • New (4) from $58.21   
  • Used (17) from $6.88   


For over 250 years American technology has been regarded as a unique hallmark of American culture and an important factor in American prosperity. Despite this American history has rarely been told from the perspective of the history of technology. A Social History of American Technology fills this gap by surveying the history of American technology from the tools used by the earliest native inhabitants to the technological systems — cars and computers, aircraft and antibiotics — we are familiar with today. Cowan makes use of the most recent scholarship to explain how the unique characteristics of American cultures and American geography have affected the technologies that have been invented, manufactured, and used throughout the years. She also focuses on the key individuals and ideas that have shaped important technological developments. The text explains how various technologies have affected the ways in which Americans work, govern, cook, transport, communicate, maintain their health, and reproduce. Cowan demonstrates that technological change has always been closely related to social development, and explores the multiple, complex relationships that have existed between such diverse social agents as households and businesses, the scientific community and the defense establishment, artists and inventors. Divided into three sections — colonial America, industrialization, the 20th century — A Social History of American Technology is ideal for courses in American social and economic history, as a correlated text for the American history survey, as well as for courses that focus on the history of American technology. It offers students the unique opportunity to learn not only how profoundly technological change has affected the American way of life, but how profoundly the American way of life has affected technology.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Stephen Gatlin
...[A] thoroughly accessible, periodically arranged, systems-oriented, text....this book will not disappoint....The book should have a broad appeal.
Agricultural History
Stephen H. Gatlin
...[A] thoroughly accessible, periodically arranged, systems-oriented, text....this book will not disappoint....The book should have a broad appeal. -- Agricultural History
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195046052
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 1/30/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 602,373
  • Product dimensions: 9.19 (w) x 6.06 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Table of Contents

A Social History of American Technology
1. The Land, the Natives, and the Settlers
The Land and the Native Inhabitants
The European Settlers
The Colonial Economy
Colonial Economic Policy and Technological Change
Conclusion: Quickening the Pace for Technological Change
2. Husbandry and Huswifery in the Colonies
Types of Farms in the Colonial Period
The Technological System of Colonial Agriculture
Conclusion: The Myth of Self-Sufficiency
3. Colonial Artisans
The Apprenticeship System and Labor Scarcity
Printshops and Printers
Mills, Millwrights, and Millers
Iron Foundries and Iron Workers
Conclusion: Reasons for the Slow Pace of Technological Change
4. Early Decades of Industrialization
Oliver Evans, Steam Engines, and Machine Shops
Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin
The Armament Industry and the American System of Manufacture
Samuel Slater and the Factory System
Conclusion: The Unique Character of American Industrialization
5. Transportation Revolutions
Transportation Difficulties
Toll Roads and Entrepreneurs
Canal Building and State Financing
Steamboats: Steam Power and State Power
Railroads: Completing a National Transportation System
6. Inventors, Entrepreneurs and Engineers
The Patent System: The Public History of Invention
Inventors: Changes between 1820 and 1920
7. Industrial Society and Technological Systems
Industrialization, Dependency, and Technological Systems
The Telegraph System
The Railroad System
The Telephone System
The Electric System
The Character of Industrialized Society
Conclusion: Industrialization and Technological Systems
8. Daily Life and Mundane Work
Farmers and Unexpected Outcomes
Skilled and Deskilled Workers
Unskilled Workers
Housewives and House Servants
Conclusion: Was Industrialization Good or Bad for Workers?
9. American Ideas about Technology
Technology and Associated Ideas
Precursors to Industrialization
Technology and Romanticism
Acceptance of Romanticism by Advocates of Industrialization
Technology and Art
Conclusion: The Cultural Meanings of Technology
Blessing or Curse?
10. Automobiles and Automobility
Who Invented the Automobile?
Henry Ford and the Mass-Produced Automobile
Alfred P. Sloan and the Mass-Marketed American Automobile
Automobility and the Road System before 1945
Automobility and the Road System after 1945
The Unexpected Consequences of Automobility
11. Taxpayers, Generals and Aviation
The Early Days of Aircraft and the Aircraft Industry
World War II: A Turning Point
The Military-Industrial-Academic Complex
Civilian Spin-offs and the Race into Space
Conclusion: Costs and Benefits of Military Sponsorship
12. Communications Technologies and Social Control
Wireless Telegraphy
Wireless Telephony
Government Regulation of Wireless Communication
Wireless Broadcasting: Radio
Electronic Components: The Vacuum Tube and the Transistor
COnclusion: The Ultimate Failure of Efforts to Control Electronic Communication
13. Biotechnology
Science, Technology, and Technoscience
Hybrid Corn
The Birth Control Pill

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)