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Hope for Historians

Just when I was ready to give up on reading history, an interlibrary loan came to my rescue: "Medieval Technology and Social Change," by Lynn Townsend White. It is probably considered by some to be a modern classic. Take a look at the Preface:
Voltaire to the contrary, history is a bag of tricks which the dead have played upon historians. The most remarkable of these illusions is the belief that the surviving written records provide us with a reasonably accurate facsimile of past human activity. 'Prehistory' is defined as the period for which such records are not available. But until very recently the vast majority of mankind was living in a subhistory which was a continuation of prehistory. Nor was this condition characteristic simply of the lower strata of society. In medieval Europe until the end of the eleventh century we learn of the feudal aristocracy largely from clerical sources which naturally reflect ecclesiastical attitudes: the knights do not speak for themselves. Only later do merchants, manufacturers, and technicians begin to share their thoughts with us. The peasant was the last to find his voice.
If historians are to attempt to write the history of mankind, and not simply the history of mankind as it was viewed by the small and specialized segments of our race which have had the habit of scribbling, they must take a fresh view of the records...
This wouldn't have been the first time I was seduced by a preface and disappointed by the book. Fortunately White's book was interesting. It discussed the radical changes that occurred during the Middle Ages; changes that we tend to overlook because they weren't the concern of clerical scribblers: the widespread use of the stirrup for horse riding (and hence the knightly occupation); using a shoulder harness for draft animals instead of a neck loop; a plow that goes deep and overturns the soil, thanks to a coulter and a moldboard shape; three-crop rotation replacing two-crop rotation; wind power; firearms; machines such as crank mechanisms and intricate clockwork.

I will even pay a most unusual compliment to his book: I wish it was longer. For instance he neglected the optical and weaving industries.