The Shock of the Old: Technology in Global History since 1900 by David Edgerton - review by Sujit Saraf

Sujit Saraf

The Shock of the Bomb

The Shock of the Old: Technology in Global History since 1900


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On rural roads in northern India, a strange vehicle serves as taxicab. It has a chassis assembled from tractors, jeeps and bullock-carts, a scavenged gearbox and rear axle, and a diesel engine made from a water pump. It is painted in wild colours, bedecked with lights, rickety, cheap, dangerous and enormously popular. Over the years, it has collected a cult of its own – websites rave and tourists take photographs. When not in use, the taxi engine can irrigate fields of sugarcane and wheat. The name of this vehicle describes it very well – Jugad, meaning ‘makeshift arrangement’ in Hindi.

You will find no mention of the Jugad in any history of twentieth-century technology, but it fits neatly into David Edgerton’s new account. He says that ‘innovation-centric’ accounts, while exaggerating the importance of milestones like aviation, the bomb, the pill and the Internet, exclude vast swathes of technology that were

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