Project Global HoT

The project, A Global History of Technology (GLOBAL-HOT), investigates the fate of technologies that circulated in various parts of the world from 1850 to 2000. Its researchers also investigate the persistent use of indigenous technologies along with globalized ones, as well as the emergence of hybrid solutions.

Recent Publications

  • Hård, Mikael, Microhistories of Technology Making the World, Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. Open Access
  • van der Straeten, Jonas. Sustainability’s “Other”: Coming to Terms with the Electric Rickshaw in Bangladesh. Historical Social Research 47 (4), 2022: 139-167. doi: 10.12759/hsr.47.2022.42 or download as pdf (wird in neuem Tab geöffnet)
  • Drengk, David, “Instandhaltung und Reparatur als Rückgrat kolonialer Eisenbahnen. Zentrale und mobile Werkstätten und Krankenstationen im ivorischen Wald„ [“Maintenance and Repair as the Backbone of Colonial Railways. Centralized and Mobile Workshops and Infirmaries in the Ivorian Forest“], Technikgeschichte 89:2 (2022): pp. 149-180. Open Access
  • Osoria Tarazona, Alejandra, „Why Chuño Matters: Rethinking the History of Technology in Latin America“ Technology and Culture 63, no. 3 (2022): 808-829. Link to Journal
  • Mchome, Emanuel Lukio (2022): ‘Blackout Blues’: A Socio-cultural History of Vulnerable Electricity Networks and Resilient Usersen Wald„ in Dar es Salaam, 1920–2020. Darmstadt, Technische Universität Darmstadt [Dissertation]. Link to Dissertation
  • Edward, Frank, “Planned Vulnerabilities? Street Flooding and Drainage Infrastructure in Colonial Dar es Salaam", HoST: Journal of History of Science and Technology 16 (1), 2022: 29-47. Link to Journal

Project Leader: Professor Mikael Hård

Institution: Institute of History, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Germany

Financial Support: European Research Council (Project No. 742631)

Timeframe: October 2017 – September 2022

Today, people in practically every corner of the world use mobile phones. In many places, though, the same population that uses this so-called modern form of communication also prepares their meals with a “primitive” technology: the charcoal cook stove. Indeed, confronted by economic and political crises, the inhabitants of some countries have returned to using techniques many consider out-of-date. In some cases, horses have replaced tractors to plow fields. Such observations challenge established views of globalization and technological change. Empirical evidence contradicts the notion that globalization holds irresistible power, and that technological change is a linear and evolutionary process. The world is certainly not the same everywhere!

Our goal is to increase our understanding of the relationships between the development and use of technologies in Europe and North America on the one hand and the so-called Global South on the other. Some of the topics and areas of particular interest include:

The local translation of internationally available plans, designs, and practices: During and immediately after the colonial period, residents of Asian, African, and Latin American countries variously attempted to implement, transform, or resist “Western” technologies—for example, in the areas of service provision and urban planning.

Technological encounters and the emergence of hybrid artifacts: In addition to considering the area of cooking equipment, the GLOBAL-HOT team examines cases in the arena of mobility. For example, the Global South is rich in examples of local craftsmen, artists, and users modifying and tinkering with imported bicycles, motorbikes, and cars to prolong their lives and to expand their usability.

The continued application of locally embedded practices and know-how: If we want to write a history from below, as it were, studies of the “autoconstruction” of makeshift houses in so-called slum areas lay close at hand. Agricultural techniques are another area in which local traditions and know-how have stayed alive and have been developed further.

The maintenance, operation, and repair of buildings and infrastructures: In contrast to most studies on the history of large technological systems, GLOBAL-HOT investigates what happened after buildings and systems were established. In other words, the team’s focus is on the continuous attempts to keep established systems running.


International conference

Technology and Material Culture in African History: Challenges and Potentials for Research and Teaching

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (January 4 – 8, 2023)

Click here for further information on the homepage of the University of Dar es Salaam

or here to get access to a blog post about the conference

The conference seeks to consolidate and foster the further development of history of technology and material culture in Africa. By gathering scholars from Tanzania and across Africa, as well as colleagues from other continents, the conference will demonstrate the discipline’s high degree of relevance—to the research and teaching of history and adjacent fields, as well as to contemporary political agendas. The organizers wish to use this event to discuss how historians of technology and material culture may contribute to the writing of a “usable past” for further generations.

The organizers invited historians, archaeologists, anthropologists, geographers, sociologists, and urban scholars to discuss the potentials of interdisciplinary and international collaboration around present intellectual, social, technological, and environmental challenges in Africa and globally. In the recent past, African countries have increased citizens’ access to up-to-date mobility and communication technologies—electric household items, mobile phones, and engine-driven vehicles. As the variety of terms indicates—daladala, matatu, tro tros, bodaboda, bajaji, and so on—artifacts are not just simply imported, but constantly modified to fit local circumstances and needs. By and large, however, a historical understanding of these processes of domestication and reinvention is still lacking. That present-day historians of technology do not limit themselves to the study of modern, Western machines and systems, but include broader aspects of (pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial) “material culture,” also means the discipline plays a central role both in research projects and teaching programs.

There have been growing initiatives to integrate Africa into the global history of technology and material culture, but such efforts rarely focus on teaching. Considering the ongoing curricular review at African universities, it is a pressing concern to discuss the potentials of including the history of technology and material culture in Bachelor and Masters programs. The organizers are convinced that the discipline of history needs to include an African perspective and showcase Africa’s contribution to global history of technology and material culture. Therefore, the conference focuses on policies, practices, and use to rethink the historiographic role played by material artifacts and systems. We believe there is a certain urgency in researching, writing, and teaching the history of technology and material culture from a truly African perspective. The organizers hope that the workshop will provide important additions to the nationalist and materialist views which have dominated African history research, writing, and teaching since independence.

By giving participants an opportunity to discuss existing research projects and teaching programs, the comference aims at laying the foundation for an international network of historians of technology and material culture in Africa.

This unique event is organized by the History Department of the University of Dar es Salaam in collaboration with the ERC-funded research project “A Global History of Technology, 1850-2000” at the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany, the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT), Eindhoven University of Technology and the Foundation for the History of Technology in the Netherlands.

Conference Organizers

Emily Brownell,SHOT Representative, University of Edinburgh

Frank Edward, History Dept., University of Dar es Salaam

Mikael Hård, ERC Global HoT Project, Darmstadt University of Technology

Jan Korsten, Society for the History of Technology and Foundation for the History of Technology

Emanuel Mchome, History Dept., University of Dar es Salaam