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The American Civil War and military technological change


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Bowles, Marc(Marcus Stuart) 1991 , 'The American Civil War and military technological change', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Military technology change is a subject of enormous diversity and profound complexity.
To reduce the topic to some ordered form the thesis discusses military technological
changes in one period; the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865.
The thesis also contends that military technology cannot be studied in purely physical
terms. Only in conjunction with environmental elements can we fully comprehend
technical change. This will enable us to make sense of technology as both a technical
entity constructed from existing scientific knowledge, and as a human activity
interacting with the surrounding environment.
The thesis argues that during the war it was possible to establish how non—technical
factors concentrated development on traditional weapons technology. Subsequently,
technical growth was mainly low risk, cumulative, and based on established technology.
Over five years, however, wartime innovations still produced significant advances in
technical knowledge. The ultimate success of changes to wartime military technology
can therefore be understood by using innovation as a guide. From such a basis one can
progress beyond the examination of an individual entity, to also assess the overall
innovation process within which technological development occurred.
The inquiry leads to an open questioning of existing approaches' ability to fully gauge
Civil War military technological change. Popular theories, explaining scientific
discovery, fail to provide an appropriate methodological approach by which this thesis
may be pursued. Equally, the question of the growth to 'modern war' is addressed early
in the thesis. This is done to illustrate the need for a more accurate yardstick that can
provide a basis of comparison with 'modern war'.
The thesis concludes that study of Civil War innovations can provide the tool with
which to identify and assess military technological change.
The thesis will be able to highlight that, despite military technological growth being
predominantly made by small incremental changes, it nevertheless altered the technical
knowledge available to innovators. By identifying the cumulative advances in technical
hardware it is possible to illustrate how significant the changes to some military
technologies were, when compared to the advances attained prior to the Civil War.
It is the identification of non—technical elements, affecting the development of Civil War
innovations, that permits the thesis ultimately to make sense of the direction, and the
incremental advance of Civil War technical change.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Bowles, Marc(Marcus Stuart)
Keywords: Military art and science, Military weapons
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1991 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Includes bibliographical references (p. 237-259). Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 1992

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