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Shock Of The Old

Imprint: Profile Books
Pages: 304
Subject: History & Classics

Shock Of The Old

Technology and Global History since 1900

David Edgerton

'So the new is old, and the old is new! Marvellous stuff and absolutely spot-on.' - Simon Jenkins

Paperback(Preorder only)
9781788163088 (Published 4 Apr 2019)

About the book

'It's rare for a book to make you see the world differently, but this ... does exactly that on almost every page' Guardian

Standard histories of technology give tired accounts of the usual inventions, inventors, and dates, framing technology as the inevitable march of progress. They split history into ages - electrification, motorisation, and computerisation - and rarely ask whether anyone bothered to use these inventions at the time. Shock of the Old is not one of those histories.

I Letters exist alongside emails and outlasted telegrams; we still make physical books and magazines despite the rise of the Internet - a belated rise considering that the technologies that made it possible was invented in 1965, and bookshops thrive despite Amazon. More horses were used in the Second World War than any other war in history and propeller planes continue to take off from the same runways as jets.

Shock of the Old forces us to reassess the significance of old inventions such as corrugated iron and sewing machines and rethink the relative importance we place on the invention of something new, its application, and its widespread adoption. It challenges the idea that we live in an era of ever increasing change and, interweaving political, economic and cultural history, teaches us to think critically about technology.

About the author

Born in Montevideo in 1959, David Edgerton is one of Britain's leading historians, and has challenged conventional analyses of technology for 20 years. Currently a Professor at Kings College London, he writes for the broadsheet press and is a regular on television and radio. He is the author of The Rise and fall of the British Nation (2018), Britain's War Machine (2011), and Warfare State (2005). He lives in London.


he eviscerates our obsession with novelty...

- The Sunday Times

newfangled things are sexy, but how significant are they?...Edgerton provides a corrective by emphasising some of the overlooked technologies that affect the lives of many.

- Newsweek

David Edgerton's The Shock of the Old is a book I can use. I can take it in two hands and bash it over the heads of every techno-nerd, computer geek and neophiliac futurologist I meet.

- Simon Jenkins, Guardian

...iconoclastic and thought-provoking book...he makes a strong case that accords with what Virgil identified around 25BC as a definitive human characteristic. Our lives consist of semper cedentia retro: always going forwards backwards.

- The Times

It's rare for a book to make you see the world differently, but this alternative history does exactly that on almost every page.

- Guardian

Additional Information

Imprint: Profile Books
Pages: 304
Subject: History & Classics

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