Read Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages by Frances Gies Free Online
Book Title: Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages|
The author of the book: Frances Gies
ISBN 13: 9780060925819
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 580 KB
City - Country: No data
Loaded: 2104 times
Reader ratings: 5.3
Edition: Harper Perennial
Date of issue: January 6th 1995
Read full description of the books:
My only real criticism of this title is that it should contain a glossary of technological and mechanical terms.
Since it does not, it may pay to either be a really well-read mechanical engineer or to have a reference close to hand.
For example, I know that an "adze" is a hand tool but I always forget what the head looks like, and what it's for. It's not an axe or a hammer, and when was the last time you went to a hardware store for an "adze"? Probably never if you're not a carpenter.
The devices and architectural innovations of the title are described, but sometimes in secondary terms that one may not remember. Recall what a "groin vault" is? How about a "millrace"? These can often be figured out from context, but I'd prefer to have real definitions to hand.
The descriptions of weaving technique were fairly diligent but could have used even more careful explication to modern eyes for whom clothing comes from hangers at a department store.
Another gripe is that the "trip hammer" is mentioned several times before its operation is actually explained.
All of that said, this is a deeply fascinating and enlightening title. While there may have been a Dark Age in European history after the celebrated "fall of Rome", it was over by the eighth century, for in less than one hundred years, Western Europe saw a tremendous agricultural revolution which permanently increased agricultural productivity and transformed land use.
The Gieses also collect quite a pile of evidence against the secularist prejudice (which I held) that the Christian Church of medieval Europe was primarily responsible for keeping the population ignorant and benighted. While this perspective is not completely punctured--witness, for instance, the potent ambivalence with which Church fathers regarded stonemasons--it seems inarguable that the Benedictine and Cistercian monastic orders in particular were responsible for making many technological innovations and dispersing even more throughout Christendom.
(At the same time, as the handling of ancient texts from the Greeks, Romans, and ancient Near East is out of scope for this title, the darker side of the Christian church's role in the preservation of knowledge is largely unexplored...yet references abound here to texts and technologies that had to be re-imported, mainly through contacts with the Muslim world.)
All in all, I regard this title as nearly essential reading for technological literacy and the history of Western Civilization.
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