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History From Things: Essays on Material Culture

3.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-1560986133
ISBN-10: 1560986131
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Editorial Reviews


“Readers should find in History from Things much to provoke thinking about material culture and a stimulus to the type of interdisciplinary communication that the field of material culture studies has tried to offer.”—Journal of American History

History from Things reminds us of the intellectual power of artifact analysis. . . . [It] is a useful book for beginning and experienced teachers of social studies, at every grade level, on the ways to use material culture to better understand the past and as routes to reflect on the more abstract features of culture.”—Social Education

“Eighteen essays discuss the use of artifacts and material culture evidence in broadening historical understanding of the past. Contributors come from a wide array of backgrounds, including art history, anthropology, archaeology, and the history of technology, and the artifacts examined range from Chinese bronzes to the cultural landscape of eighteenth-century English gardens and from New England cemeteries to a twentiety-century steam locomotive. Individually these essays push out the boundaries of material culture study, while collectively they transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries.”—Science, Technology, and Society

About the Author

Steven Lubar is curator of engineering and industry at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History.

W. David Kingery
is Regents Professor of Anthropology and Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Arizona.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Books (September 17, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560986131
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560986133
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #408,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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It is exactly what it claims to be. For non-historians, it can get pretty dreary, and many of the essays are less about historical frameworks and methods of deducing history from things than they are about the specific historical details of the objects studied.

The opening four essays, especially the Csikszentmihalyi one, provoke broader conversation on the topic of reading history from material culture. The rest are esoteric and probably tedious to anyone not interested in their specific periods or places.

For example, if you aren't particularly curious about Chinese bronze vessels, the essay that details their process of manufacture and function in ancient China will not hold much for you, since it contains almost no reference to any broader theory of history or material culture and instead just catalogs minute details of the artifacts under study. Most of the book is like that, and the chapters do not talk to each other, they just each go off on their own tunneling dissertations about their favorite subjects.
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