The diffusion of "small" Western technologies in the Middle East: Invention, use, and need in the 19th and 20th centuries

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In recent years we have become interested in the diffusion of "small" Western technologies in the countries of the Middle East during the 19th and 20th centuries, the era of Imperialism and first globalization. We postulated a contrast between "small" and "big" technologies. Under the latter category we may understand railway systems, electricity grids, telegraph networks, and steam navigation, imposed by foreign powers or installed by connected local entrepreneurs. But many "small" Western technologies, such as sewing machines, typewriters, pianos, eyeglasses, and similar consumer goods, which had been developed and manufactured in Europe and America, were wanted, and willingly acquired by the agency of individual users elsewhere. In a few cases, however, the inventions had to be adapted, or were overstepped, and even delayed. Some were adopted as social markers or status symbols only by elites who could afford them. Processes of adoption and diffusion therefore differed according to cultural settings, preferences, and needs. Social and cultural historians, and social scientists, not only of the Middle East, will find in this collection of essays a new approach to the impact of Western technological inventions on the Middle East.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherDe Gruyter
Number of pages277
ISBN (Electronic)9783110777222
ISBN (Print)9783110777192
StatePublished - 4 Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston. All rights reserved.


  • Consumer goods
  • Differential diffusion
  • Globalization
  • Imperial expansion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (all)
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • General Social Sciences


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