University of Tasmania
whole_BowlesMarcusStuart1992_thesis.pdf (16.91 MB)

The American Civil War and military technological change

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posted on 2023-05-27, 07:55 authored by Bowles, MS
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‚ÄövÑvÆtechnical 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‚ÄövÑvÆtechnical 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.


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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). Includes bibliographical references (p. 237-259). Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 1992. Page 70 of the thesis is missing.

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