History of Technology

Before the age of the internet, how did you actually find out where the best Asian restaurant was? Since when have sewing machines been available in India, and how did their diffusion and usage processes differ from European developments? How did the typewriter change knowledge production and office work? What role did emotions play in the development and use of technology? How do innovations come about? Why do we no longer speak of ingenious inventors anymore, as they did in the 19th century?

Such questions are topics of the history of technology. Historians of technology aim at explaining technological developments in their social, cultural, economic, and political contexts. This includes questions about the social and cultural construction of technology and about the co-evolution of technology and society as well as research on the appropriation and use of technology.

The history of technology further examines how life worlds have changed globally in the wake and context of technological developments. The aim is to show the historicity of technological cultures. This also means reflecting on why our current technological culture is taken for granted.

History of technology is an interdisciplinary field closely linked to the history of science, cultural and social anthropology, cultural studies as well as to the engineering sciences.

The temporal focus of our research is on the period from the 19th century to the present time. Our research focuses lie on historical anthropology of technology, the history of work, and the history of digitization.

The project “A Global History of Technology, 1850-2000 (Global-HoT)”, headed by Prof. Dr. Mikael Hård, is funded by the European Research Council (ERC). It investigates the appropriation of Western technology in Asia, Africa and South America.