325--Week 2 Questions/Comments

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Native Americans and Technology Transfer

I found Kupperman’s article to be interesting in that it compares what the perception of technology would be between the English and the Native American’s. It is clear that the English felt that their technology was superior and that they did not consider the agriculture which they took from the Native Americans to be something of a technological advance. Though their way of life clearly depended on the settled agriculture they took from the Native Americans, they were very reluctant to credit the people who introduced these methods. Instead they believed it was a product of their land, an almost inevitability, and it took the English tools and “industrious men” to turn the land into something profitable. It seems that the difference that arises is in how one interprets agriculture as a form of technology. –Jessica Kilday

The article “…much good might they receive from the English,” talked about how the Native American’s first perceived the new technologies as they were introduced by the English. It kind of gives you an idea about how different technologies may be received differently as they are transferred from one society to another. It also reminded me of a movie I watched in a sociology class, “The God’s must be crazy,” which was about the culture shock of finding a coke bottle in the desert. –Jessica Kilday

The Europeans who wrote about Native Americans respected the technology that the Natives had developed, but it was generally thought that Europeans had superior technology. However, the colonists were basically surviving off of food from the Indians. In the introduction of Kupperman's essay, the question is asked how European technology could be glorified while at the same time acknowledging that survival depended on the crucial aid of the Native Americans, especially with agricultural methods. I thought it was interesting that Europeans could maintain their position of superiority and I speculate that it might have something to do with the racial or cultural differences. - Karen Siegmund

I found the subject of European, in particular the English, superiority in the first reading section interesting. I have done more research on the settlement of Latin America and saw many differences and similarities between the two. In William Wood’s excerpt, he describes the Indians as being lazy and “fettered in the chains of idleness.” He believed that with the addition of English aid and modeling, the Indians would be “more industrious.” The lazy attributes of the Indians were described in Latin American sources as well. One thing I do not believe they mention in the readings is slavery. How did slavery play a part in the colonization and the technological advancements or changes of North America?

Playing off that and Karen’s comment, there is also no mention of racial differences between the Europeans and the Native Americans. Although it may not have been considered an important addition to this book, I believe that those differences drive advancements in various cultures. Religious differences are mentioned, but only to show the Indians becoming more European and “cured” of superstitions (p. 30). I also find it interesting that the differences are not mentioned in Karen Kupperman’s essay. I just feel that the Europeans obviously found themselves superior and were not going to admit the whole extent to which the Indians improved their technology.- Kirsten Walleck

I was absolutely fascinated with the fact that Native Americans seemed to value and appreciate technology more so than their colonial counterparts. In Governor Nicholas Denys on the Micmac, the Native Americans were said to give up valuable furs and robes in exchange for relatively simple European technology. While, I am not surprised that colonists took advantage of them, but my interest came from the Native American satisfaction with these transactions. This account provides a unique account of the Western "fascination and fast paced adoption of ingenuity"'s independent presence in a culture rooted in much different values. I think it speaks to technology as a part of the human condition -Adam Shlossman

I think Religion is an important part as Kirsten mentioned - particularly the burial tradition described in _____. I think it is important to notice the superiority complex that the English had in all aspects of life - religion, technology, civilization, etc. Something that I felt came through in most of these first readings is that there is a clear correlation (at least to the authors of these pieces) between modern technology and civilized society. The "savages" had intricate old methods of carving out a canoe that worked perfectly well for them. The english clearly looked down on these boats and "could scarcely sit without a fearful tottering." Overall - it seemed apparent that (in the eyes of the english) the english were new, good, and civilized, while the indians were simply outdated and silly in their ways. --Elle W

It was interesting to read about European technology intertwining with Native American technology and vice versa. Canoes were adapted into the European culture and firearms adapted into Native culture. -Melissa Graham

I find it funny that one of the explorers writes about how foolish the Indians were to be living on iron mines without even realizing it. He goes on to say how “disadvantageous [their] ignorance and inconsiderate contempt of the useful arts is (34).” Obviously, he considers European technology to be superior, but then he sings the praises of the canoe. He talks about how light and quick and just plain amazing they are, yet he avoids praising the Indians who invented it. --Taylor Brann

The technological area of the culture clash that took place is one that rarely seems to been specifically concentrated on. It is interesting to note the ways in which European descriptions of Native American technologies seemed to fit their agenda. As was mentioned, the Europeans seemed to be able to divorce the technology they found from the people who made them, even when describing how they are made. This allowed them to extol the virtues of canoes on the North American continent while still condemning the Native Americans for not creating some of the marvels of European technology. They could then use the canoe, corn farming, and many other technologies but believe the people they came from where inferior. --Sean Brock

In the reading about the Native Americans and their technology, it said that maize saw its best production from the techniques used by the Native Americans. Does our modern day corn production reflect any of the Native Americans techniques? Are we able to get two harvests from our crops today? Additionally, if maize was such an amazing grain, why has it fallen by the wayside and yellow corn has taken over as the primary corn produced today?

-Brian Brown


What are the key issues and themes in Henry French's "Irishmen & Spades" (1859)?

My favorite essay out of the reading was Henry French's essay about tools and how they were used by people. I really enjoyed how he showed that the person and the task are very important when choosing the tool to be used. He continues on in his essay to tell how tools evolved by people using them for different jobs; this later led to the formation of industries that replicated the tools that were being made by individuals and later sold to many. --Jimmy Conroy

Another essay I found interesting was Irishmen and Spades by Henry French. He makes a good point in that different people work best with different tools for the same task. There is also a difference in the tools used for different locations. It seems as though there was lots of controversy about how to make tools better: if it was lighter, wider, if it was straight, if it was made out of iron, and so on. I think what I am getting is that people are always trying to make things easier and tools are constantly being changed, and manipulated to accomplish different tasks more easily. Based off of this, it is easy to see how large-scale factories eventually came into being. This caused a shift from producing for yourself, as described in A Virginian Describes His Self-Sufficient Plantation, to producing for a market leading to increased trade and larger corporations. This shift is shown in Alexander Hamilton’s “Report on Manufactures” but from this comes even more obstacles and an evolution into even more problems. With the rise of factories you have more problems as described in “Amelia,” Some of the Beauties of Our Factory System—Otherwise, Lowell Slavery. Based off of this reading I can see how technology makes things easier for some but often have repercussions for others. My mind goes to the shutting down of factories at home and the exploitation of workers abroad and the constant wars that are going on for resources. It makes me wonder if we are any better off today or if it is a continuous cycle. --Erin Sanderson

I don't think I agree with what others have said about the French essay on Irishmen and Spades. Just because someone has never used a certain tool before doesn't mean they will automatically not be able to learn how. It is a bit unsettling that people would market specific tools to specific nationalities.-- Lauren Milner

I agree with Lauren here, after all elderly people who grew up in a non computer, non cell phone era, uncolored television have learned how to not only use some of these newer technologies so why could someone not learn to use a tool. Being someone who works construction over the summer, I can personally attest to the argument that someone could pick up a tool and by watching someone use it teach themselves. I do not fully disagree that it would be challenging; however, I believe that it is unjust to give so little credit to these men working.--Sean Marren

In response to the ongoing discussion about French's "Irishmen and Spades, 1859" I'd like to offer an idea that I think has already been inferred a bit in previous posts. While some people naturally do work better with tools best suited to their physical stature or to the specific environment they're working in, it seems natural to me that French, writing in 1859, would naturally have certain presuppositions and stereotypes of "Old World" immigrants. Irish immigrants and Irish Americans fought in the Civil War to protect their new homeland (North or South) in part to show that they were U.S. citizens. Thus, it doesn't surprise me that French may have presuppositions as to which tool is most efficient in the hands of people of different ancestries. A lot of it reinforces communal identity of what it means to be Irish, Scottish, etc. in the face of persecution for not being "American" and in attempts to retain communal heritage as socialization occurs. -Bryan Lees

I thought that "Irishmen and Spades: 1859" and "A Gentleman Farmer on Common Farmer's Tools: 1822" worked very well together. French explains in "Irishmen" that the spade was seen as incredibly vital to the farming of the time and location, tying into the supply and demand explanations of "Gentleman Farmer." The latter article also gave an interesting view on how farming seemed to be very by-the-book, down to the author explaining that there are specific tools to use for specific tasks. -Cash Nelson

Marx's "The Machine"

What was at the core of the debate Marx describes?

In Leo Marx’s essay “The Machine” he is a clear advocate of the use of machine technology in the United States. He uses a speech delivered by Coxe to bring up many benefits of industrialization and argues why he believes it is a necessary aspect of American economy and politics. He argues that in order to maintain American independence the machine is necessary to increase self-sufficiency. He even goes on to say how the machine is this “root metaphor of being” and how it can be linked to the system of our constitutional government. I think it’s an interesting point because it shows how a machine doesn’t necessarily have to be something technical or mechanical but rather a system of how different parts work together to accomplish something. –Jessica Kilday

Leo Marx's essay was an enjoyable read. The essay was used to describe how the technological advancements that occured when America finally got their independence. Some founding fathers as well as some independent people of America were at first very sceptical with whole idea of machines and the thought of industrialization. Jefferson viewed machines as "human spirit liberation," but saw factories as "feudal oppression." -- Paul Kim

I found the reading to be incredibly eye opening and it truly shows the progression of technologies and the affects it had on the population. The essay on page 63 by Edmund S. Morgan, A Virginian Describes His Self-Sufficient Plantation, shows how much work and how many people were required to have a self-sufficient plantation. What is daunting is the Plantation Accounting from 1784 on page 64. It shows how difficult things were. You needed certain tools in order to make certain other tools. With this, you need increased labor which leads to the necessity for slave labor as well as skilled labor to produce the necessities.

Midwife's Tale

I enjoyed reading the Midwife's Tale. The fact that midwives made up a large part of the community's healthcare, not just with obstetrics, in the 18th and 19th century is something that is overlooked. Though scorned by many male doctors, midwives were needed for their homeopathic remedies, such as using herbs and common vegetables to cure a patient's ills, contrasting with the doctor's elaborate medicinal remedies. The irony of this is midwives were perhaps more sensible in their treatments than the so-called professionals of the day. This makes sense as many of the most basic tools that doctors use today, like the stethoscope, hadn't been invented. It was also nice to read about how one of the midwives attended autopsies and such, this of course being well before the Victorian age of restricting women due to their delicate natures. --Lauren Milner

I think it would have been really cool to be a midwife. Not that I would be able to stomach it, of course. But women put so much trust in them to deliver their children, the most precious thing to them in the world, and it's just miraculous how much they were able to do without the technology we have today. They were able to create remedies and medications with simple herbs and spices and seemed so advanced, almost, for their time period. They knew a lot more than I think we give them credit for. -Kelly W

I enjoyed the "Midwife's Tale" for the same reasons as Lauren. The extent of a midwife's knowledge is extraordinary. The paragraph in the middle of page 81 describes the job effectively and shows the range of knowledge Lauren mentioned. It states, a midwife "medicates the mysteries of birth, procreation, illness, and death. They touched the untouchable, handled excrement and vomit as well as milk, swaddled the dead as well as the new born..." Throughout the reading, I was surprised at their responsibilities, ability to multi-task, knowledge of medicines, and the cooperation with their communities and patients.- Kirsten Walleck

Peter H. Wood's "Slavery and Arts in South Carolina" and Edmund Morgan

My favorite essay this week was Peter H. Wood's "Slavery and Arts in South Carolina." When we think about slavery, we generally associate it more so with plantation slavery in the 1800s working out in fields planting, weeding, and harvesting (unskilled labor). Yet this was not the universal case then, and especially not earlier on in the 1600 and 1700s. The notion that slaves were actually skilled laborers who had specific jobs that were vital to the success of their master's plantation makes a lot of sense to me- though I never considered it in great detail before. I think that the most interesting part of Wood's essay was his discussion on how many times slaves became apprentices (often to whites) for skilled labor and were then sold at higher prices to other plantations because of the specific skills that they had acquired. Again, it makes sense that whites would mention their slaves' skills at the slavery block, but it's something that I hadn't thought that much about prior to reading Wood's essay. -Bryan Lees

I really liked the essay of "Slavery and Arts in South Carolina" because it proves how often people misjudge slave labor and consider them unskilled workers. Like the author noted, they were far from unskilled and without their know-how the early colonial period would have been far from what it ended up as. The colonists wouldn't have had any of the crucial knowledge they needed to cultivate crops like rice without the help of their slaves. - Kelly W

The essay by Edmund S Morgan was very suprising to me. The plantation owner had everything he needed to keep the plantation alive right in his own backyard. The ideas to leave nothing behind and make it somehow useful, like the way the the plantation owner killed his livestock for food and then used the rest of the parts from the slaughtered animal and use it to make clothing out of. --Paul Kim

I guess this is where my definition of technology might not be broad enough - slavery and techniques of planting/fishing, etc.? My idea of technology is pretty close minded and modern I think. I found it interested when Wood talks about the law against developing/finding blends of poisonous herbs. I think this is an interesting example of technology - since I think of tools and mechanical apparatuses, not herbs or skilled labor. This is definitely something I'd like to develop further. Someone please enlighten me. -- Elle

Rules and Regulations/Textiles/Working Conditions in Industries

I found the Rules and Regulations of the Matteawan Company, 1846 alarming. The prohibition of talking (with exception to work related topics) was especially shocking. It makes me wonder why workers weren't aware or more proactive about obtaining better rights? -- Lon LeSueur

I don't know, Lon. A lot of those rules and regs remind me of several jobs that I've held in the past (with the exception of the 'no talking' rule. but you could easily say that they just meant 'stay on topic while at work.') They jusr don't seem as draconion as I though they would be. -- Jeff Phillips

Also, when I was reading one of the essays after that, I was struck by the fact that the company doors were to be locked during work. This reminds me of that terrible factory fire that killed all of those female employees, and the only reason it was so bad was because the company owners/overseers locked the doors to keep them working, which then led to many deaths. Thank God for OSHA.-- Jeff Phillips

The dichotomy between workers conditions and the development of new technology is fascinating. Although the products these workers make improve other people's lives (like the textile Mill 'Almira' worked in Massachusetts), the technology itself has put workers in bad conditions. Without this technology, are the workers better off? Or are conditions in other industries (like agriculture) just as bad as the conditions put forth by the development of mass industry? -- Lon LeSueur

The article on the Rules and Regulations of the Matteawan Company was interesting. I found most of the rules were very restricting but the others like "no spirituous liquors, smoking, or any kind of amusement, will be allowed in the workshops or yards." The part about liquor and smoking makes sense for a conducive working environment. My question I suppose would be what exactly would "any [other] kind of amusement" be? - Melissa Graham

Did anyone else think the overly serious tone of "Rules and Regulations of the Matteawan Company: 1846" was a little self-parodic? No talking permitted except on subjects relating to their work? I understand wanting to make sure your employees are serious about their jobs, but this whole article just seemed like overkill to me. -Cash Nelson

I’m trying to decide if the editors were being sarcastic when they wrote, “Almira’s criticism [of the textile mills in Lowell] is perhaps more muted” than Amelia’s. “Muted” isn’t exactly the word I would use to describe what Almira writes. It’s obviously propaganda for the company, particularly since it was published in the company’s paper. Amelia’s account is much more unpleasant (and more in line with what I’ve read about 1840s working conditions), and makes me wonder if Almira got a nice little bonus for writing that the joys of working in Lowell far outweigh the disadvantages. --Taylor Brann

It seemed having been endowed with what I believe is an instinct of the human condition, the desire to seek what one does possess, I found "Almira" Weights Discontent a humbling look at discontent before the era of worker demands seeing results. Ellen had to come to grips with the harsh reality of life in Western Society. Once you give a days hard labor, you are entitled to satisfaction from that work if not leisure to follow. What Ellen came to discover is she was perhaps in the best case scenario in an industry that needed to see major reform to come. Is anyone else still dissatisfied with this reformed industrial system that exists even still today? - Adam Shlossman

Agreed. Propaganda is what I thought of as well when reading this account, it seemed like a very brainwashed insistence that factory life was indeed better than the alternatives. Not sure I agree given the previous history lessons i've had about Lowell. -- Elle

In regards to the Rules and regulations of the Matteawan Company of 1846, I didn't find any of the rules "shocking" per say, however I did see them as contrary to producing positive morale in workers. Happy workers are productive workers, and the restriction on talking and entertainment obviously would lead to a boring and dull work environment. I also found it interesting that the company promoted a code of ethics and self respect as one of their motivating factors as well as a means in which they might persuade others that factories were not a bad thing.

-Brian Brown

Cross Article Observations

I think that the issue of pride is evident in several of the articles. A culture takes pride in its technological advancements, taking credit and guarding the secrets of innovation closely. In the Irishmen and Spades article, the idea is expressed that the Irish spade is superior to any other and that none but an Irishmen could use it effectively. They take pride in the tool that they have developed and scorn other's attempts to use it. In Kupperman's article, Europeans refuse to acknowledge that Native Americans had developed equal technology to there own. People want their culture to be seen as superior and since technology is often a measure of success, each society wants to think that their accomplishments are the most innovative. - Karen Siegmund

To look at the readings as a whole, I really enjoyed how the advancements of technology and tools in general led to the formation of what we call American technology today. It is also interesting to think how different would our lives be today without these advancements in the technologies of the early Colonists and Native American's. --Jimmy Conroy

After looking at all of the articles as a whole I would have to agree with what Jimmy has said and would also like to add that I think that is sad how reliant we have become on technology. When there is a cell phone tower down people freak out like it is Armageddon. It just makes one thing, is it possible that our society as a whole has become so technologically advanced that we can not function without the use of what we consider everyday technology such as a computer, cell phone, blackberry?--Sean Marren

After reading all the articles I thought about them in an idea together. I focused, in my mind, on the olden way of thinking to get something done. In Alexander Hamilton's essay "Report on Manufactures" he stressed how he wanted the US to adopt the idea of an industrious economy and lists the benefits. In the essay " Native American Technology" Karen Kupperman says the growth of a nation depends on technology, and yet goes onto say the natives were not industrious and were prosperous. I liked reading the old-time thoughts of the people from the time before the industrial revolution, before technology became the obsession. I realize people are always inventing the 'new and improved' model and have been forever, but in the 19th Century is where the 'obsession' took off to the entire nation, which is what influences us now. -- Maggie Wroe