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Historians of pretty well every field and period have long acknowledged that historical enquiry cannot (indeed, must not) be limited to describing the actions and experiences of elites.
During the Second World War vital judgements had to made on how equipment, tactics and logistics could all be integrated into success on the battlefield. Scientists and engineers in the United States and Britain developed new ways of thinking in order to do this, and among them was operations research.
Much has been written about the UK’s National Health Service but as Martin Gorsky pointed out in a detailed review of its historiography published to coincide with its 60th anniversary in 2008, accounts of its past have tended to privilege traditional political narratives focused on national politics and the workings of the civil service.(1) In the case of Charles Webs
John Dee is a name that often conjures up images of shady spells muttered in dark rooms with bubbling potions, but the exhibition at the Royal College of Physicians, titled Scholar, Courtier, Magician: the Lost Library of John Dee seeks to offer a view of Dee as an articulate, extremely well-read, educated man.
Early in his study of radio in the USSR, Stephen Lovell quotes Rick Altman: ‘new technologies are always born nameless’ (p. 2). New technologies, that is to say, do not arrive with a self-evident purpose, and are understood initially relative to what already exists.
Both as a historical focus and as a narrative vehicle of ‘otherness’, the depiction of technological marvels has often seemed tantalizingly vague. In Orientalist scholarship à la Said, it also ended up being ultimately irretrievable across the mutually reinforcing mirrors of East and West.
Between school and university I worked for a year as a lab technician in Dulwich Hospital in south London. After some months, I had developed sufficient expertise to be asked to make extra blood tests on a patient whose illness had proved impossible to diagnose.
'I am a physicist, not a historian' (p. ix). This is how Steven Weinberg, one of the most eminent scientists of our time, has chosen to begin his effort to encapsulate the historical development of the scientific method.
In the latest of our occasional Reviews in History podcast series, Daniel Snowman talks to Peter Burke about his background, career, influences and forthcoming book.
Peter Burke is Professor Emeritus of Cultural History at the University of Cambridge.
Daniel Snowman is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster on social and cultural history.
This is a deeply flawed book, although it is not completely without merit. Mayer, who died (in January 2014) as this book went to press, may have been an accomplished scholar of ecclesiastical history (1), but was a relative novice in Galilean scholarship.