History 398 - Spring 2002
Technologies and Their Societies: Historical Perspectives

Second Essay
Mid-Course Bearings

Write an essay of 1000-1200 words on one of the following topics. Since history is fundamentally an empirical disipline, your response should set forth an argument supported by specific evidence drawn from the lectures, readings, and precept discussions pertinent to the subject.


Compare the organization of production at Rockdale, Lowell, and Harpers Ferry.  To what extent can each be said to reflect, at least at the outset, the republican ideology of the new United States?  How did the later vicissitudes of these industrial centers similarly reflect contradictions or tensions in that ideology?


"The factory was more than just a larger work unit. It was a system of production resting on a characteristic definition of the functions and responsibilities of the different participants in the productive process." (David S. Landes, The Unbound Prometheus)
Using evidence from the lectures and readings, identify the participants, both seen and unseen, in the productive process pictured above and describe how each acquired his or her functions and responsibilities.


Exercising your historical imagination while remaining close to the evidence provided in the readings and lectures, pretend that you are Karl Marx and have been touring the new American industrial sites in Rockdale, Lowell, and Harpers Ferry.  What would you say about the use of machinery and its role in shaping relations between employers and workers?  Does the American experience confirm what you have said about industrialization in England, or do you see some significant differences?


"While the domestic system had implied some measure of control, 'it was ... an essentially new thing for the capitalist to be a disciplinarian. [...] The capitalist employer became a supervisor in every detail of the work:  without any change in the general character of the wage contract, the employer acquired new powers which were of great social significance.'  The concept of industrial discipine was new, and called for as much innovation as the technical innovations of the age."  (Pollard, "Factory Discipline in the Industrial Revolution", English Historical Review 16(1963), 259; quoting Usher, Intro. to Industrial Hist. of Engl.(1921), 348)
Using specific evidence from the readings and lectures, discuss the nature of this new industrial discipline and how it was imposed upon workers in the new factories of England and America.  In what ways did the the process of disciplining, and resistance to it, differ among the various sites of nineteenth-century industrialization we have looked at, i.e. the English factory, Rockdale, Lowell, and Harpers Ferry?  In what ways were they similar?


"This paper represents my own work in accordance with University Regulations."

Essays are due by 3:00 PM Tuesday, 9 April, in your preceptor's box in the History Department Office, 129 Dickinson Hall.  Seniors with theses due during the week of 8 April may have an extension until 3:00 PM Friday, 12 April.