History 398 - Fall 2005
Technologies and Their Societies: Historical Perspectives

Second Essay
Mid-Course Bearings

Write an essay of 1500 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?  


An archeological expedition has just excavated the above two artifacts.  Alongside the objects were buried the reading packet and a student's rather full lecture notes for History 398 at Princeton.  Use those readings and notes, along with your newly acquired skill in "reading" artifacts, to identify the objects, explaining what they are, who used them and how, to what systems they belong, and what historically significant developments in technology they represent.


"In the final analysis, the Industrial Revolution is about society, not technology.  The new power machinery and the factory system brought radical change to the processes of production, raising both output and productivity to unprecedented, even unimagined levels.  But that is merely a matter of quantity.  What made the change revolutionary were the social and economic transformations through which the new systems of production affected the quality of people's lives.  Whether or not they had more in 1830 than in 1760, they lived differently."  Do you agree or disagree with this claim about the relation of technology and social change in England during the Industrial Revolution?  What evidence from the readings and lectures best supports your position?  What evidence argues against it?  How useful is the American experience as a point of comparison?


 "The advantages which are derived from machinery and manufactures seem to arise principally from three sources: The addition which they make to human power.-The economy they produce of human time.-The conversion of substances apparently common and worthless into valuable products." (Charles Babbage, On the economy of machinery and manufactures, 6)
 "John Stuart Mill says in his Principles of Political Economy: 'It is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day's toil of any human being.'  That is, however, by no means the aim of application of machinery under capitalism.  Like every other instrument for increasing the productivity of labour, machinery is intended to cheapen commodities and, by shortening the part of the working day in which the worker works for himself, to lengthen the other part, the part that he gives to the capitalist for nothing. The machine is a means for producing surplus-value" (Karl Marx, Capital, Chapter XV, 491)
Marx and Babbage clearly had different conceptions of the role the machine was playing in England's industrial society.  Clarify these differences by applying their analyses to nineteenth-century American industrialization and to the spread of machinery into the domestic sphere.  Use detailed information from both the lectures and the readings.


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

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Essays are due by 3:00 PM Monday, 8 November, in your preceptor's box in the History Department Office, 129 Dickinson Hall.