Title

Lynn White's "Roots" and Medieval Technology and Social Change: The View from Outside Medieval Studies

Document Type

Book Section

Publication Date

1-1-2019

Publication Title

Fifty Years of Medieval Technology & Social Change

Publisher

Routledge

First page number:

70

Last page number:

90

Abstract

Medieval historians know Lynn White, Jr. as one of the founders of the field of medieval technology and its cultural and social contexts. The history of the reception of White’s famous “Roots” article illustrates some of the perils of not being interdisciplinary and emphasizing perhaps artificial divisions between religion and culture, on one hand, and failing to distinguish between theology and the history of religious ideas, on the other. White's scholarly output on the cultural context of medieval technology, much of it collected in Medieval Religion and Technology, explicated his thesis, with nuance and a wealth of supporting detail, that the Middle Ages was a technologically innovative period largely because of the "activist" values of medieval Western Christianity. Scholars of medieval agriculture and medieval technology have also toned down White's more extreme claims about the speed and universality of medieval technological development while still incorporating White's primary observation that the medieval period exhibited dynamic changes technologically and environmentally.

Keywords

Medieval period technology and environment; Medieval social change; Medieval cultural and religious context

Disciplines

Arts and Humanities | History | Medieval History

Language

English

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