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By Jonathan Sawday

At what aspect did machines and know-how start to influence the cultural recognition and mind's eye of Europe? How was once this mirrored throughout the paintings and literature of the time? was once know-how an indication of the autumn of humanity from its unique country of innocence or an indication of human growth and mastery over the flora and fauna? In his traditionally lucid and appealing kind, Jonathan Sawday investigates those questions and extra by means of enticing with the poetry, philosophy, artwork, and engineering of the interval to discover the misplaced international of the computing device within the pre-industrial tradition of the ecu Renaissance.

The aesthetic and highbrow size of those machines appealed to conventional figures resembling Shakespeare, Francis Bacon, Montaigne, and Leonardo da Vinci in addition to to a bunch of lesser recognized writers and artists within the 16th and 17th centuries. This highbrow engagement with machines within the ecu Renaissance gave upward push to new attitudes in the direction of gender, paintings and labour, or even fostered the recent sciences of man-made existence and cause which might be pursued by means of figures reminiscent of Descartes, Hobbes, and Leibniz within the 17th century.

Writers, philosophers and artists had combined and infrequently conflicting reactions to expertise, reflecting a paradoxical perspective among smooth growth and standard values. Underpinning the enthusiastic construction of a machine-driven international, then, have been tales of loss and disaster. those contradictory attitudes are a part of the legacy of the eu Renaissance, simply up to the performs of Shakespeare or the poetry of John Milton. And this historic legacy is helping to give an explanation for lots of our personal attitudes in the direction of the know-how that surrounds us, sustains us, and occasionally perplexes us within the sleek world.

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Indeed, Jean Starobinski’s influential study of Montaigne specifically rejects any fascination on the part of the philosopher with ‘technical activity’. Montaigne (Starobinski writes): ‘. . 1 Water Machine at Marly, c. 1715 (engraving), French School (eighteenth century), private collection, The Stapleton Collection, The Bridgeman Art Library. 40 P HIL OSOPH Y, POWER , AN D POLITICS directed towards objects in the outside world . . 45 And yet, our dominant image of Montaigne as a pensive solitary ignores the fact that machinery of all kinds had an important bearing on his philosophical work.

Uzziah ‘transgressed against the Lord’ and died a leper (II Chronicles 26. 10–23). Uzziah thus joined a long line of cunning inventors who traced their lineage back to the fratricidal Cain, the inventor of cities, and which included Jabal (‘the father of such as dwell in tents, and such as have cattle’) who invented pastoralism, Jubal, the inventor of musical instruments, and Tubalcain ‘the instructor of every artificer in brass and iron’ (Genesis 4. 17–22). For technology, the Bible story tells us, was the product of the Fall, though in exactly what way is not entirely clear.

The Domesday Book records 5,624 watermills in England, each of which was supplying either power, or the products of mechanical power, to, on average, fifty households. In post-conquest England, in other words, a mill of some kind existed for every 250 people, a statistic which may suggest, in turn, how ubiquitous the sight and sound of the grinding wheels of the turning mill must have been in the period. Gimpel summarizes the proto-industrial landscape of Norman England for us cartographically, commenting: PHILOSO PH Y, POW ER, A N D POLITICS A map of England’s river system with its 5,624 Domesday water mills is an amazing site.

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