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Heroes of Invention
Technology, Liberalism and British Identity, 1750–1914

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Part of Cambridge Studies in Economic History - Second Series

  • Date Published: June 2010
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521153829

$ 52.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • This innovative study adopts a distinct perspective on both the industrial revolution and nineteenth-century British culture. It investigates why inventors rose to heroic stature and popular acclaim in Victorian Britain, attested by numerous monuments, biographies and honours, and contends there was no decline in the industrial nation's self-esteem before 1914. In a period notorious for hero-worship, the veneration of inventors might seem unremarkable, were it not for their previous disparagement and the relative neglect suffered by their twentieth-century successors. Christine MacLeod argues that inventors became figureheads of various nineteenth-century factions, from economic and political liberals to impoverished scientists and radical artisans, who deployed their heroic reputation, not least to challenge the aristocracy's hold on power and the militaristic national identity that bolstered it. Although this was a challenge that ultimately failed, its legacy of ideas about invention, inventors, and the history of the industrial revolution remains highly influential.

    • Sheds light on the industrial revolution and nineteenth-century British culture
    • Integrates the history of technology with British political and cultural history
    • Will appeal to scholars of British economic, social and cultural history
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    • Winner of the Edelstein Prize for 2008

    Reviews & endorsements

    "...presents numerous insights that will fascinate and enlighten those with more encompassing interests in social attitudes, perceptions and representations of techonology and culture, during the period of industrialization in Britain." -B. Zorina Khan, EH.NET

    "It is well researched and fluently written." -Ron Harris, American Historical Review

    " impressively judicious and learned book."
    Journal of Modern History, Jordanna Bailkin, University of Washington

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2010
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521153829
    • length: 476 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 27 mm
    • weight: 0.69kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    1. Introduction: inventors and other heroes
    2. The new Prometheus
    3. The inventor's progress
    4. The apotheosis of James Watt
    5. Watt, inventor of the Industrial Revolution
    6. 'What's Watt?' The radical critique
    7. The technological pantheon
    8. Heroes of the Pax Britannica
    9. Debating the patent system
    10. The workers' heroes
    11. Maintaining the industrial spirit
    12. Science and the disappearing inventor
    Epilogue. The Victorian legacy

  • Author

    Christine MacLeod, University of Bristol


    • Winner of the Edelstein Prize for 2008

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