Richard F. Hirsh

History/STS 3715
Course Information

History of Technology:
From Prehistory Through the Industrial Revolution

Modern society can be characterized by technological achievements and their ill-considered side effects. For example, we are familiar with powerful machines, grandiose architectural masterpieces, and time-saving devices as well as environmental pollution, energy shortages, and labor unrest. But these technological elements of society are not unique to modern times. They existed hundreds of years ago in societies that produced new inventions and engineering techniques while also facing--not always successfully--challenges concerning how to use them effectively.

In this course, we examine the history of technology from prehistoric times through the onset of the industrial revolution in the 17th and 18th centuries, when big machines and huge sources of power emerged as part of a new socio-economic order. Besides looking at technological accomplishments, we will also consider their social impact. Since many responses to technology have not changed much since ancient times, a study of the development of early technologies may give us insights into recent achievements and their effects on modern life.

This class, cross listed with the Science and Technology in Society program, was last taught by Dr. Hirsh in 2016. 

Class Resources

Other Resources


The social nature of technology

PyrmidThe course highlights the organization of societies that created technologies as diverse as the pyramids and the transcontinental railroad. Transcontinental RR

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