Technology

Kathleen Frederickson, “British Writers on Population, Infrastructure, and the Great Indian Famine of 1876-8″

Kathleen Frederickson, “British Writers on Population, Infrastructure, and the Great Indian Famine of 1876-8″

This article examines British writing about the 1876-8 famine in southern and western India. In British newspapers and journals, the turn to thinking about famine in terms of the total population obscured the extreme variations in food access that worsened with rising economic inequality. When the British press in the late-1870s turned to human causes of famine, they either argued that India’s population overburdened India’s land, or suggested that more rail construction would prevent enough deaths sufficiently to mitigate British responsibility for famine conditions. The turn to population-based arguments helped either to perpetuate the belief that famine was a quasi-natural part of India or to parse the sudden increase in the frequency and severity famines in India under British rule.

Figure 1: Benjamin Herschel Babbage. “Engraving of Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine No. 1.” _Harper’s New Monthly Magazine_. 30 (175). In the Public Domain.

Roger Whitson, “The Difference Engine: 1832, 1855, 1876, 1991, 2002, 2008″

The difference engine is a case study in what media archaeologists see as a diversity of temporalities entangling the production and functionality of technological media. Only an unfinished prototype, what was called “Babbage’s beautiful fragment” existed of Babbage’s designs during his lifetime. Even so, many machinists created their own variations of the difference engine after Babbage’s death. This phenomenon, and the many troubles Babbage himself ran into regarding the materials used to create the difference engine, demonstrates that the machine’s functionality exceeded its inventor’s intentions and awareness.

Sue Zemka, “1822, 1845, 1869, 1893, and 1917: Artificial Hands”

Sue Zemka, “1822, 1845, 1869, 1893, and 1917: Artificial Hands”

The manufacture of artificial limbs was a Victorian growth industry, requiring an assortment of qualifications: mechanical skills, sympathy for the disabled, commercial ambition, a willingness to exaggerate in advertising, and faith in technological progress. This essay explores nineteenth-century designs for artificial hands, focusing on the stories they relay about the relationships between the people who needed artificial hands and the people who made them. These relationships concertize and personalize the complex factors at play in the history of Victorian hand prostheses: philosophies of embodiment, the hand’s role in these philosophies, the experiences of people without a hand or hands, and the impact of technology on all three.