The ordinary British Atlantic merchant ship as risk mitigation technology
What is it about?
I argue that understanding the ordinary merchant ship in the British Atlantic in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries requires understanding the risk environment to which the technology was an evolving response--and that, because the risk environment changed only incrementally in the period, the technology changed only incrementally as well. This was not technological stagnation, but rather a measured and effective response to the particular set of challenges and opportunities presented to the shipping industry in that time and place.
Why is it important?
Thanks to the microprocessor and its incorporation into more and more of our technology, we over-generalize a rapid and rapidly-accelerating pace of technological change that obscures both the much more incremental pace of such change in our own world and in the past. By understanding technological continuity and change in pre-industrial societies, we can better understand the history of human use of technology and its place in other cultures--and, thus, more clearly apprehend our own particular use of technology and its place in our own culture. Also, improving our understanding of this particular technology will advance our understanding of the development of the British Atlantic world from early settlement through the independence movements in the Americas.
The following have contributed to this page: Dr Phillip Reid
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