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Engineering the Revolution

Arms and Enlightenment in France, 1763-1815

Engineering the Revolution documents the forging of a new relationship between technology and politics in Revolutionary France, and the inauguration of a distinctively modern form of the “technological life.”  Here, Ken Alder rewrites the history of the eighteenth century as the total history of one particular artifact—the gun—by offering a novel and historical account of how material artifacts emerge as the outcome of political struggle. By expanding the “political” to include conflict over material objects, this volume rethinks the nature of engineering rationality, the origins of mass production, the rise of meritocracy, and our interpretation of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution.


496 pages | 32 halftones, 3 maps | 6 x 9 | © 1997

History: European History, History of Ideas, History of Technology, Military History

Reviews

"Alder’s work is one of the first in the history of technology to offer a sophisticated historical treatment of skills. By arguing that skills are historically contingent, Alder’s contribution offers a valuable cultural study of the relationship between the rational knowledge of enlightened philosophers and engineers and the artisanal knowledge of skilled craftsmen."

Myles W. Jackson | Journal of Modern History

"This richly textured, heavily documented, and fluently written study centers on the attmept by French military engineers to apply engineering rationality--through the use of mass-produced interchangeable parts--to the reorganization of mass warfare. . . . Anyone interested in such topics as the social role of engineers, the politics of artifacts, and the military sources of social change will . . . benefit from a careful study of this remarkable book."

Barton C. Hacker | Isis

"This is a fine work, grounded in research in French archives and a plethora of other sources. Alder has forcefully demonstrated the role of engineers in fostering social change in the eighteenth-century and revolutionary eras."

Owen Connelly | American Historical Review

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Preface

Acknowledgments


INTRODUCTION

A Revolution of Engineers?


CONTENTS


PART ONE

Engineering Design: Capital into Coercion, 1763-1793


CHAPTER ONE

The Last Argument of the King

CHAPTER TWO

A Social Epistemology of Enlightenment Engineering

CHAPTER THREE

Design and Deployment


PART TWO

Engineering Production: Coercion into Capital, 1763-1793


CHAPTER FOUR

The Tools of Practical Reason

CHAPTER FIVE

The Saint-Etienne Armory: Musket-Making and the End of the Ancien Régime

CHAPTER SIX

Inventing Interchangeability: Mechanical Ideals, Political Realities


PART THREE

Engineering Society: Technocracy and Revolution, 1794-1815


CHAPTER SEVEN

The Machine in the Revolution

CHAPTER EIGHT

Terror, Technocracy, Thermidor

CHAPTER NINE

Technological Amnesia and the Entrepreneurial Order


CONCLUSION


Abbreviations

Notes

Bibliography

Index

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