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Energy in the History of Technology


It is impossible to understand societies without looking at their technological underpinnings. Technology constitutes the very fabric of societies' political, economic, cultural, and everyday realities. Building on recent historiography, this book offers the first overview of the global history of contemporary technology.

Gathering more than fifty specialists of the history of technology, the collection of essays presents an overview of technological evolutions on a global scale. The book challenges both teleological approaches on progress and eurocentric perspectives. It explores the complex socio-economic implications of ‘techniques’ (and not simply technology) as well as the systems of representation and power structures that led to the emergence of today’s world.

The purpose of the collected essays is to offer a new history of technology. In this perspective, a central question concerns the very category of the history of technology, i.e. the term ‘technology’ itself. Refusing both the limitations of ‘technology’ and of ‘useful knowledge’, the book stresses the necessity to study technology as embodying human activity as a whole. In that sense, history of technology, envisioned as techniques rather than purely technologies, is intrinsically linked to anthropology and ethnology.

This book is divided into three sections. The first section opens with a world tour of techniques, restoring the complexity of regional historiographies and of the meanings given to technological activities in different societies. The second part focuses on sectors of activity, processes, and products with a strong emphasis on means of production and communication, the exploitation of natural resources, major technological systems, infrastructures and networks. The final section provides access to major cross-related issues. It pays particular attention to the role played by technology/techniques in the process of globalization, particularly through colonization, imperialism, and the development of large technological systems.


Marrec, A. et Khelfaoui, M. (2024). Energy in the History of Technology. Dans Global History of Techniques (19th – 21st Centuries) (p. 315-335). Bruxelles : Brepols.