The Newberry Seminar on Technology, Politics, and Culture
Co-Sponsored by the University of Illinois at Chicago, Roosevelt University, Illinois Institute of Technology, and Northwestern University
Friday, April 23, from 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Culture and the Transfer of Technology: Sewing Machines, Glass Bottles, and Cyanide in Late Nineteenth-Century Mexico
Ted Beatty, University of Notre Dame
Between 1880 and 1910 Mexico underwent its first significant era of
industrialization and economic growth, based in large part on the
introduction of new technologies from abroad. Historians have long
recognized the tremendous flow into Mexico during this period of machinery,
tools, and industrial methods, as well as the considerable dependence of
Mexican industry on foreign technicians. Yet the link between these two
developments remains largely unexplored.
This paper considers technology transfer in late nineteenth century Mexico.
It is based on three cases: sewing machines, glass bottles, and cyanide (a
process used in the mining industry). In each case, no one possessed
perfect information. Innovators typically knew far more about the original
design and purpose of a new technology than they did about its deployment
in the particular social, economic, and political environment of
late-nineteenth-century Mexico. Consumers assumed the innovation process
would be frictionless; in fact, it often involved a reciprocal adjustment
between the technical object, its user, and the local setting.
Scholl Center seminars present scholars' works-in-progress. All papers are pre-circulated. If you plan to attend, you may receive a paper by contacting Ginger Shulick via email or phone.
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