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August 20th, 2018 by: John Dean Davis

Levees, Slavery, and Maintenance

Why is the U.S. Army in charge of the levees on the Mississippi River? There’s no one-sentence answer to this question. Even answering it in a paragraph would be difficult. The story of how the military became entwined with the great river goes back to arguments over the republic’s founding documents, and what amount of…

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August 20th, 2018 by: Daniel Levinson Wilk

A Brief Episode in the History of Dusting

Cleaning kicks up dust, and dust takes its time to settle. In the early twentieth century, as business boomed and corporations clogged the sky, skyscraper managers scheduled a gap of hours between cleaning and dusting. They wrote about it in trade journals like Buildings and Building Management. It was definitely the best system. The women…

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August 20th, 2018 by: Camilla Røstvik

“Feminine Waste Only!!!” A History of the UK Sanitary Bin in the Twentieth Century

Every fortnight one man enters all the women’s toilets at our university, removes and replaces the sanitary bins, and drives away in a van. Observing this system, I became curious about the grey rectangle with foot-operated pedals, “modesty flaps”, bearing the warning “for feminine waste only”, located in almost every women’s toilet in the UK.…

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May 24th, 2018 by: Cian O'DonovanJohan Schot

Crafting Stories of Technology and Progress: Five Considerations

A story, to triumph, must seize our imaginations. A story about technology’s role in social progress is no exception. Its characters must invoke love and hate. Its beginning must establish urgency; its middle twists and turns; and at its end, there must be resolution—though perhaps the best stories reserve space for sequels and future chapters…

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May 24th, 2018 by: Andy StirlingCian O'DonovanBecky Ayre

Which way? Who Says? Why? Questions on the Multiple Directions of Social Progress

For better or worse, science and technology are both deeply entangled in “social progress”. This is the case equally in discourse and practise around the world. In areas such as health, wealth, energy, mobility, and communications, it is widely recognized that remarkable historical improvements— at least for some— all owe much to science and technology.…

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