Syllabus [HoST Fall 2008]

For the Week of 11/12/08

Assignment 11


Agriculture, Industrial Revolution, and Explosives

“The African Queen” (1951) has it all:  Steam engines, boats, explosives (not much agriculture though).

This is actually a great movie.  Here is the trailer: Youtube-African_Queen-trailer

Note the over-the-top sexual innuendo throughout.

Hands down the best explosives movie ever made was “Wages of Fear” [Le Salaire de la peur (French) – 1953] starring hunky Yves Montand and Véra Clouzot.  It was remade in 1977 in English as “Sorcerer” starring Roy Scheider, but it opened opposite “Star Wars” and guess which movie got more attention.  I haven’t seen “Sorcerer,” but “Wages of Fear” is unbelievably intense.  I highly recommend it.

Be sure to have McClellan and Dorn, the steam engine animation and the sailing simulator covered for Wednesday’s class:


Read in McClellan and Dorn: Chapter 14, “Timber, Coal, Cloth, and Steam” [Chapter 13, “The Industrial Revolution” in older editions].


Look at this animation of the Newcomen Steam engine: 

          Question: If you were to quit boiling water in this engine and just open up all the valves, what position would the piston assume in the cylinder?  This may be in a quiz on Wednesday.  Here are some other less clear animations: 


Play with this sailing simulator: Sailing Simulator [Click on “Take the Helm”]


Read Bown: Chs. 3-5.  pp. 51-100, 109-119.  Beware! Bown completely misrepresents Japanese firearm history on p. 112.  This is an interesting myth that has been propagated in the western world due to a few western historians not being careful and everybody else quoting them.  There was a general ban on all weapons in Japan starting in 1588 that applied to commoners, but it was only sporadically enforced and it turns out that exceptions were frequently made for firearms if used for hunting and guarding agriculture interests from wild animals.  The general population had access to firearms and there was a healthy manufacturing industry throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.  It is true that because there was little warfare going on during this period that gun tech. advancements stagnated, but production didn’t cease.  This error in history can be found in many sources.  I have found it in 3 prominent sources so far, including Jared Diamond and it is clear that there are several more out there. The moral to the story: If you are going to write about Japanese history and you don’t read Japanese, you might want to run your ideas by a Japanese historian just to see if s/he sees a glaring error.  [See Chase, Kenneth Warren. Firearms: A Global History to 1700. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. – n. 84, p. 253.]


Read  “This Steer’s Life” by Pollan:   Pollan_This_Steers_Life-391KB.pdf



Bown, Stephen R. A Most Damnable Invention : Dynamite, Nitrates, and the Making of the Modern World. 1st ed. New York: T. Dunne Books, 2005.


McClellan, James E., and Harold Dorn. Science and Technology in World History : An Introduction. Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.


Pollan, Michael. "This Steer's Life (Power Steer)." New York Times Magazine, March 31, 2002.


Wednesday: Jasko

Thursday: Stross-Krichman and Hollin




Back to Syllabus [HoST Fall 2008]


Me –

Review materials:

Posted: 12/6/08 8:29 AM


Here are my notes on Bown and these pretty much cover the whole book excluding chapters 1-3.  I would suggest looking at the book itself and your own notes too, as I also took additional notes in the book itself, so these notes are both too much and too little at the same time.  There are also lots of typos, spelling, and grammatical errors throughout. Do with them what you will.





Here are some notes on the McClellan and Dorn reading with my additions for lecture.  I didn’t get to some of this, so use your judgment on whether or not this material is useful.



A few of the images compressed strangely in PDF compression… They are not critical images.