Consumers, Tinkerers, Rebels: The People Who Shaped Europe

by Ruth Oldenziel and Mikael Hård

Released: December 2013 - Order your copy here


Who has decided how Europeans have dressed and dwelled? Traveled and dined? Worked and played? Who, in fact, can be credited with the shaping of Europe?

Certainly inventors, engineers, and politicians played their parts. But in the making of Europe, consumers, tinkerers, and rebels were an unrecognized force—until now. In this book, historians Ruth Oldenziel and Mikael Hård spotlight the people who “made” Europe—by appropriating technology, protesting for and against it. Using examples from Britain and the Continent, the authors illustrate the conflicts that accompanied the modern technologies, from the  sewing machine to the bicycle, the Barbie doll to the personal computers. What emerges is a fascinating portrait of how Europeans have lived, from the 1850s to the current century.


Six reasons to buy this unique contribution to European history: 

-       The book narrates the lives of ordinary people who shaped Europe during the last 150 years

-       It examines machines and infrastructures as a force in European life

-       It explores the conflicts that accompanied these technologies’ introduction and use

-       It treats “technology” as the sewing machine to the Barbie doll, the steamship to the train compartment

-       It challenges traditional history of technology—by championing users in place of engineers and inventors

-       It includes 75 unique illustrations from all parts of Europe



" engaging, beautifully illustrated history of Europe's technological inventions, crafts, design, and gadgetry over the last two centuries, but especially of the peoples of Europe - as train riders, sewing machine operators, bicyclists, radio hobbyists, home-makers, hobbyists, and computer mavens. Wide in scope, profound in its questions about the multiplicity of European ways of living, it is also timely background for considering the impact on European technology and craft of global cyber-innovation and the new environment of global manufacturing." 
Victoria de GraziaColumbia University, author of Irresistable Empire

"In this entertaining fusion of social and technological history, Ruth Oldenziel and Mikael Hård argue that much of Europe's contemporary culture was created from below after 1850, as active consumers tinkered with and appropriated both machines and processes to change the ways that they worked, traveled, communicated, dressed, and ate. Not politicians or generals but consumers have increasingly shaped the experiences that define what it means to be European."
- David E. Nye, author of Technology Matters and America's Assembly Line 

"From cycling to the internet, and from Magdeburg to Milan, this rich comparative study reveals how attention to users and the social construction of technology can illuminate the history of modern Europe"
- Frank Trentmann, author of Consuming Cultures, Global Perspectives (with John Brewer)


Read a recent review by Jacob Krumrey, Europäisches Hochschulinstitut Florenz  here (in German).  


Take a look at the table of contents

Read the acknowledgements by the authors. 

Marija Dremaite, Faidra Papanelopoulou, Karin Taylor, Slawomir Lotysz and Patryk Wasiak provide research assistance; Emanuela Scarpelinni acts as advisor to the volume.