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.” — Lynn White, Jr., *Medieval technology and social change*

“… 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 nights 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.” —ibid.



Lynn White is dropping righteous acid:

“Since, until recent centuries, technology was chiefly the concern of groups which wrote little, the role which technological development plays in human affairs has been neglected.”

*This* is why people can go around thinking the future was static until three hundred years ago. They were taught this by historians who esteemed books, which became common only three hundred years ago, books in which miners and builders and makers and gunners could speak.

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Octodon is a nice general purpose instance. more