Theme 6 (TECH) - Technology and Innovation

10 min readjune 26, 2020

Evan Liddle

Evan Liddle

AP World History: Modern 🌍

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👉The one thing you need to know about this theme:
Causation and Technology Technology and Information do not move in a vacuum. Humans have always created technology and the reasons why vary, but it is important to note: there are causes and consequences to technological changes throughout history, not all of which are predicted or intentional.  

📘College Board Description

Human technological adaptation and innovation have resulted in increased efficiency, comfort, and security, and technological advances that have shaped human development and interactions (with one another and the planet) with both intended and unintended consequences.

🔍 Organizing Question

How have humans used technology to improve efficiency, comfort, and security and how have these developments impacted history with both intended and unintended consequences?

📝Key Vocabulary 

Natural ResourcesChemicalNavigationalOutput

Historical Examples

Units 1 & 2 (1200-1450)

Knowledge in Dar al Islam! Most of the knowledge and technology under discussion here predates 1200, but the Islamic world, because it stretched far and wide allowed for rapid diffusion of knowledge. There are two major examples of this: the House of Wisdom and the Translation Movement in Al-Andalus.
The House of Wisdom in Baghdad, during the height of the Abbasid caliphate, was the cultural capital of the region, arguably one of the most cosmopolitan and cultured cities in Eurasia. An early Caliph established a house of wisdom to translate works from and helped spread knowledge from places like Persia, Greece, and India such as medicine, physics, and philosophy. 

Image Credit

The House of Wisdom

In Spain, the interactions between Muslims and Christians during the Reconquista (800-1492) led to the Toledo School of Translators. This school was established by the local Bishop and later funded by the king of Castile (Spain). This movement, which translated texts from Arabic to Spanish, was one way that Ancient Greek texts made their way back into popularity in Europe, including new information on sailing charts later used during the Age Exploration. 
Technological Innovations in China in the Song Dynasty is tied up with economic infrastructure and trade goods. The Song Dynasty was the most economically/trade-oriented dynasty in Chinese history
Porcelain, so famous from China, it became known simply as China, required special chemical mixtures to create a hard glaze under which could be drawn beautiful designs. This technique would not be duplicated outside of China for 800 years. 

Image Credit; Chinese Porcelain

North and South China became more tightly linked during this time period because of the construction and expansion of the Grand Canal. This canal allowed for the transfer of food from the south and goods from the north of the country to travel much quicker. This helps explain why the main Chinese trading hubs were in southern China such as Canton (Guangzhou).
Though paper predates 1200, there was a new use during this time as money, for the first time in history. The economy of China was so productive that it led to a shortage of precious metals to be used in coins. As a result, the use of flying money and paper money took hold and lasted until the 1500s. 
The Mongol Empire, which reached the peak of its power in the 1300s, stretched across the heart of Eurasia and made many the development and diffusion of new technology possible. Specifically, the Mongols made possible the transfer of Chinese Technology to other parts of Eurasia. Gunpowder Weapons are introduced in Europe via Mongol military action in Hungary. The continued improvement of Printing Technology in the Islamic World.
The Trans Saharan Trade Network, while the Sahara has been crossed since pre-Roman times, the introduction of Camels from the Middle East and Camel Saddles allowed for an increase in the efficiency of trade. Camels are critical for this trade because of how long they can go without water, an important factor for such a large desert.
During this time the Indian Ocean Basin Trade Network was the site of numerous technological exchanges and utilization of knowledge. Dhows and Junks are ship types that could carry large amounts of cargo with a small crew and could be found throughout the trade network in many different ethnic groups of merchants. The Compass and Astrolabe helped sailors find their location as well as direction.

Image Credit; Dhow Ship

Units 3 & 4 (1450-1750)

In this era, most of the technological adaptations and innovations, as well as knowledge has to do with the military and navigational technology, this is because of the rise of Large Empires on land and sea across the world. 
The continued development of the Cannon and the Hand Cannon (gun) in Europe and Asia as a result of the numerous wars and experimentation lead to massive social changes as armies went from trained Knights in Europe or trained Samurai in Japan to mass conscripted armies of peasants with guns. The Islamic Empires (Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal) are sometimes referred to as gunpowder Empires because of their central use of gunpowder weapons in their militaries.

Image Credit; A painting of a Persian soldier wielding a musket.

The adaption of and further development of navigational technology from Asia by Europeans characterized this era. The Lateen Sail, the Compass and various Astronomical Charts (from Islamic Spain) were adapted by European nations undertaking exploration including Portugal and Spain. The development of various ship types to meet the needs of exploration and trade such as the Caravel (for exploration) or the Galleon or Flyukt (for trade) were the result of the desire to explore. The Carrack, a ship type developed for trade was the first major ship type to have cannons put on the ship, a combination of navigation and military technology. 
Though paper came to Europe through various channels, the Islamic World, the Mongols, and the Byzantine Empire, it was the development of a Printing Press, or easily movable type in the mid-1400s, that made a big change. Though developed in Asia 150 years before Europe it had the largest impact in Europe, helping to spread the Protestant Revolution as well as Enlightenment Ideas. Without the Printing Press, the ideas of the Protestant Reformation might not have spread as far as they did.
The development of sugar processing mills in the Americas was the result of the demand for Sugar. Though sugar plantations go back to the Crusades (1000 CE) after the European voyages to the Americas in 1492 resulted in the establishment of the European Colonies, merchants recognized the value of growing sugar. Over time the development of organizing principles that promoted the efficiency of production and the use of slave labor would later influence Industrial Factories.

Image Credit; A sugar plantation on the English colony of Antigua. The organizational principle of plantations which promoted efficiency and quick production of sugar would remain important.

The continued improvement of Iron Casting Technology. In the Islamic World, as well as West Africa, states were able to improve their bronze and metal casting seen through the Benin Bronze Statues or the Great Bombards in the Ottoman Army.

Units 5 & 6 (1750-1900)

Most of the major technological developments and adaptations in this time period revolve around Industrialization.
At its most basic the Industrial Revolution is about new sources of energy, first coal then oil and electricity, as opposed to Human or Animal Muscle, in order to increase production (the total number of goods produced) and new forms of organization, such as factories (a place to concentrate labor in a single location and regulate the work time and pace) to increase efficiency (the number of goods v. how much energy is spent making that good).  
Students do not need to know every single Industrial Machine that was invented during this time period, there are a few key machines to keep in mind.  
The Spinning Jenny (1775) a machine that spins cloth much faster than traditional methods, increased textile output drastically. Textiles were the heart of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain, the first Industrialized industry and the example from this industry lead to other industries such as steel.
The Bessemer Process (1856) A steel production method that created stronger steel at a faster pace. Steel became a critical part of the Industrial Revolution as it allowed for the construction of large buildings and the laying of railroad tracks, which allowed for the transport of more goods.

A retired Bessemer furnace in Sweden. This method of steel production burned off impurities faster than previous methods of forging steel. This increase in steel production had a ripple effect in the Industrial Economy.

Image Courtesy of Sverdrup Steel

The Watt's Steam Engine (later the Internal Combustion Engine) (1775). These engines use the new sources of fuel, Coal, Oil, and Electricity to power a machine to do work. While the first steam engine was used to pump water out of mines, railroads and steamships became a major part of global transportation and made the transport of people and goods around the globe faster than ever before.
The Mechanized Reaper (1830s): This invention allowed for quicker harvesting of agricultural products, and reduced the need for humans in agriculture.
As European nations grew to dominate global production locations such as South and Southeast Asia saw a decline in their share of global production. A combination of foreign domination, British Expansion into India and Egypt,  and the inability to compete with industrial machinery lead to a decline in iron production in South Asia and shipbuilding in both South and Southeast Asia.
New communication technology such as Telegraph Lines made communication much easier and facilitated an increase in world trade and European Imperialism. Telegraphs used electricity to send messages via a cable. During this time European powers aid sea cables to make cross-ocean communication easier.

Image Credit; A map of undersea telegraph cables that were run by one British Company.

Units 7, 8, & 9 (1900-Present)

Both World War I and World War II saw dramatic increases in fatalities of both soldiers and civilians because of advances in military technology and tactics. Machine Guns, Tactical Firebombing, Atomic Weaponry all increased the number of casualties in war, as well as the ratio of casualties that were civilian v actual military. Infamously the Firebombing of Dresden in Germany and the use of Atomic Bombs in Japan during World War II represented a new chapter in the technology of warfare.
Human lifespans on average increased steadily over the 20th century because of a number of technological advances and knowledge. Vaccines became widespread throughout the world, which eliminated or reduced numerous previously debilitating diseases such as smallpox, measles, and mumps. The end of these diseases as common occurrences meant more children survived childhood.
The Green Revolution and the rise of Genetically Modified Organisms (genetically modified crops) resulted in a major increase in food output throughout the world. The distribution of fertilizer and genetically modified crops to nations such as India, Philippines, Mexico and parts of Africa has almost doubled the wheat crop yield since 1950, however, the intense use of water and fertilizer has shown to cause ecological damage to animal species and the soil.
New medical advances such as birth control have given women an unprecedented degree of control over their reproduction and led to social change. For the first time in human history, women had a safe and easily accessible way to control their fertility.
New sources of power such as Atomic Energy and Petroleum further increased the productivity of the manufacturing of human goods. In particular, the use of automobiles has only been made possible through the use of the new power of petroleum. This increase in production and human movement has resulted in a staggering increase in Greenhouse Gas emissions.
New communication technology, starting with the Radio, followed by the Telephone and since the 1980s the World Wide Web, which began as a system of military communication known as ARPANET has revolutionized how individuals communicate with one another. The speed of these new communications continues to fundamentally change human interaction, global business. 

Practice Questions

Sample MCQ (Unit 5)


Image Credit

An artist’s sketch of an English woman working with a Spinning Jenny, early 1800s.
The social effects of the image depicted above include all the following EXCEPT
a) The women's suffrage movement
b) An increase in the number of upper-class women working in factories 
c) The large scale movement of people from the countryside to the city
d) An increase in calls for wealth redistribution by socialist and utopians

Sample SAQ (Unit 5)

It would have been strange, indeed, if the industrial revolution had simply made the rich richer and the poor poorer…. {but} the cotton and woolens, and food and drink, which now became available, were consumed not by the few, but the masses….
The diet of the worker almost certainly improved: there was a substitution of the flower of wheat; for rye and oatmeal; and meat, which had been a rarity, became, with potatoes, the staple dish on the artisan’s table. 
Not all the coal raised from the pits went to feed the furnaces and steam-engines: a warm heart and a hot meal were of no small consequence to the man who came home wet from the fields.
-Thomas Ashton, British historian, from his work, The Industrial Revolution: 1760-1948
Using your knowledge of World History and the image above, answer the following in complete sentences.
a) Identify one specific cause of change for the historical situation discussed in the excerpt above.
b) Explain one specific piece of evidence from 1750-1900 that supports Ashton’s claim.
c) Explain one piece of evidence from 1750-1900 that does not support Ashton’s claim.

Sample LEQ (Units 3 & 4)

In the period 1450-1750 new political states arose across Afro-Eurasia that utilized technology and knowledge to legitimize their rule.
Develop an argument that evaluates the extent to which the Afro-Eurasian States utilized technology and knowledge to legitimize their rule
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🐎Unit 1 – The Global Tapestry, 1200-1450
🐫Unit 2 – Networks of Exchange, 1200-1450
🕌Unit 3 – Land-Based Empires, 1450-1750
🍕Unit 4 – Transoceanic Interactions, 1450-1750
✊🏽Unit 5 – Revolutions, 1750-1900
🚂Unit 6 – Consequences of Industrialization, 1750-1900
💣Unit 7 – Global Conflict, 1900-Present
🥶Unit 8 – Cold War & Decolonization, 1900-Present
✈️Unit 9 – Globalization, 1900-Present
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