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Electromagnetism, photographic reproduction, grand operas, phantasmagorias, automatons and socialist utopias: what do these have in common? According to John Tresch, they were all manifestations of a common ‘mechanical romanticism’ that permeated Paris between the fall of the first Napoleon in 1815 and the triumph of his nephew Napoleon III in 1851.
The quest for saltpeter, the ‘inestimable treasure’ of Tudor and Stuart monarchs, crucial for the production of gunpowder, is the subject of David Cressy’s work, which spans the reign of the first Tudor, Henry VII, to the industrialised warfare of the 20th century.
The field of food studies has gained significant traction over the previous two decades. Across a range of disciplines, from religious studies to anthropology to history, among others, a growing body of books, articles, and conference papers has explored the history of particular foods.
Controversies over nuclear issues are no strangers to New Zealand. To some this is a surprise. Often regarded in the northern hemisphere as a country both remote and insular (one of ‘eternal Sundays’ as playwright Alan Bennett has written), it is a locality that at times jolts with a seismic unpredictability.
Over 40 years ago, Robert Darnton proposed to evaluate the Enlightenment from its authors’ perspectives. After all, he observed, they were ‘men of flesh and blood, who wanted to fill their bellies, house their families, and make their way in the world’.(1) But with what did they fill their bellies, and when, and how much?
At first sight this looks like another of those increasingly common commodity books, some of which are intended to be global in scope, and which include studies of chocolate, sugar, cod, salt and many others (digestible or not!). As Riello points out, commodities are a good way to tell a global story since many of them have been traded throughout the world for centuries.
During the 19th century print became an industrial product. In 1800 the speed at which text could be put to paper remained governed by the rhythmic operations of the hand press, an invention very little changed since moveable type printing appeared in Europe in the mid-fifteenth century. At the very best, two skilled operators working together could print 250 single-sided sheets per hour.
In his first book, Sublime Disorder: Physical Monstrosity in Diderot's Universe (1), Andrew Curran focused on the different means by which corporeal and moral monstrosity were figured and evoked in the celebrated Enlightenment thinker's work.
It is 50 years since Thomas Kuhn published the million-selling Structure of Scientific Revolutions, and the work reviewed here rightly acknowledges Kuhn’s to be ‘by far’ the most cited and discussed 20th-century book about science (pp. 415–16). What has the history of science come to in the intervening half century?
Firing off ideas and arguments in all directions, Jussi Parikka’s What is Media Archaeology? is an exciting and excitable contribution to cultural theory. The book begins by outlining the strands of historical and cultural enquiry, as well as the artistic practices, that currently constitute what he terms ‘media archaeology’.