History 285: Technology in Historical Perspective
Instructor: Jonathan Seitz
Office: 3021B MacAlister Hall
Office hours: M 12:00 – 1:30, or by appointment
Office phone: 215 – 895 – 0996
Home phone (9am – 9pm, please): 484 – 572 – 2447
If you have concerns about the course or your performance in the course, please email, call, or come talk to
me. Don’t delay: if you drop by at the first inkling of uncertainty, it will be much easier to get back on track!
I welcome visitors during my posted office hours (no appointment necessary), and I am also happy to make
appointments at other times.
Goals, or, Where we’re going
Welcome to History 285! This is an introductory history course, which means we are here not only to learn
the topic at hand, but also to learn about the field of history itself. As for the topic, this course covers the
development of western technology through today. Obviously, we have to pick and choose what we cover.
Some of the main themes we will consider will be:
How technology can be symbolic — how it can be more than just its parts and function
How society and culture shape technology, and vice-versa
How attitudes towards technology have varied over time: How and why some people eagerly adopt
new technologies, while others resist. How expectations about our ability to control nature (and
whether we should) have changed.
How science and technology relate
As for the field of history itself, we will look at such issues as:
What kinds of questions do we, as historians, ask about the past?
What kinds of materials are available to answer them and how do we use those materials?
Once we think we have an answer to a historical question, how do we convince others that we are
Assignments, or, How we’ll get there
This course will consist primarily of reading, writing, and talking about technology in historical context.
Lectures, discussions and readings will complement, not echo, each other. You will need to do the readings,
attend the lectures, and participate in the discussions in order to get the full value of this course. Two books
for this course are available for purchase at the bookstore and on reserve at Hagerty library: