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American Lucifers: The Dark History of Artificial Light, 1750-1865

American Lucifers: The Dark History of Artificial Light, 1750-1865

by Jeremy Zallen
American Lucifers: The Dark History of Artificial Light, 1750-1865

American Lucifers: The Dark History of Artificial Light, 1750-1865

by Jeremy Zallen

eBook

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Overview

The myth of light and progress has blinded us. In our electric world, we are everywhere surrounded by effortlessly glowing lights that simply exist, as they should, seemingly clear and comforting proof that human genius means the present will always be better than the past, and the future better still. At best, this is half the story. At worst, it is a lie.

From whale oil to kerosene, from the colonial period to the end of the U.S. Civil War, modern, industrial lights brought wonderful improvements and incredible wealth to some. But for most workers, free and unfree, human and nonhuman, these lights were catastrophes. This book tells their stories. The surprisingly violent struggle to produce, control, and consume the changing means of illumination over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries transformed slavery, industrial capitalism, and urban families in profound, often hidden ways. Only by taking the lives of whalers and enslaved turpentine makers, match-manufacturing children and coal miners, night-working seamstresses and the streetlamp-lit poor—those American lucifers—as seriously as those of inventors and businessmen can the full significance of the revolution of artificial light be understood.



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469653334
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 08/19/2019
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 534,394
File size: 9 MB

About the Author

Jeremy Zallen is assistant professor of history at Lafayette College.

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From the Publisher

Looking past the physical properties of artificial light, Zallen sees this transformative technology as an artifact of conquest, slavery, and the rise of capitalism. The march of science is retold as a story of struggles between the workers and owners who converted matter to energy, with an emphasis on the toil and blood that made and unmade their worlds. Rewriting the myths that have characterized the history of progress, Zallen invites us to question whether technology ever provides a "fix" for our most important problems, and redirects our attention to the vital social relationships at the core of human existence.—Vincent Brown, author of Tacky's Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War

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