Spinning through the history of technology: A methodological note

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This paper uses the mechanisation of spinning as a case study to explain the approaches and methods employed by historians of technology, who have for too long left the Industrial Revolution to scholars in other sub-disciplines. As a result of this neglect, scholarship on the topic has seen the innovations in textile production of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as the product of exceptional individuals or, more vaguely, as necessity causing invention. Instead, historians of technology study the complex causal relationship between social and technological change, including economic and trade incentives as well as contingency in the adoption of new methods and machines. This paper explains current approaches in the history of technology, including internalist and externalist analysis, technological determinism and social construction, systems theory and actor-network theory, and explains them in the concrete terms of the case.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-242
Number of pages16
JournalTextile History
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2 2016


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