Lightning Wires: The Telegraph and China's Technological Modernization, 1860-1890 (Contributions in Asian Studies)

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9780313300110: Lightning Wires: The Telegraph and China's Technological Modernization, 1860-1890 (Contributions in Asian Studies)

Baark examines the transfer of telegraph technology to China in the late nineteenth century. He shows how the initial Chinese rejection of the telegraph as an inconvenient technology contributed to violent conflicts between foreigners and the Chinese, but that this resistence gradually gave way to an assimilation of the telegraph into Chinese society.

The transfer and assimilation of advanced technology has been an important challenge for China's modernization for more than a century. Baark examines some of the dilemmas faced by Chinese modernizers of the yangwu (Western affairs) movement from the 1860s to the 1890s. Telegraph technology emerged in the West on the basis of scientific discoveries in electricity in the early nineteenth century, and was greeted with enthusiasm by governments and the public alike.

The Chinese attitudes to the telegraph, however, were informed by entirely different political and cultural priorities. Baark examines the tensions which existed between the Chinese and the foreign companies seeking to extend telegraph technology to East Asian cities, and he shows how the domestic network was shaped by indigenous social and cultural forces. This book will be of considerable interest to historians of modern China, technology, and economic development.

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Book Description:

Examines cultural and political conflicts associated with one of the earlier examples of technological transfer and assimilation in China.

About the Author:

ERIK BAARK is Associate Professor, Department of Technology and Social Sciences, Technical University of Denmark. He has published extensively on science and technology policy and technological innovation and cultural change in Asia, Africa, and Europe. He has also worked as a consultant for international organizations such as the World Bank and UNDP.

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