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2021: Man and Technology

How Humanity Thrives in a Changing World

The word technology is often used to describe tools, various kinds of equipment, practical skills and knowledge of various technical systems. But technology is present everywhere and in many different contexts.

Technology can exist without material tools – for example, predators’ techniques to outwit their prey; the knowledge and application of statecraft and diplomacy; and military technology in the form of tactics, strategy and grand strategy.

The chapters in this volume deal with the significance of technology and technique for humans and as an aspect of civilisation. Like episteme, the term techne refers to knowledge, though of a different sort. We can find numerous uses of these terms from the ancient world, though of course techniques and the phenomena that can be termed technology have a past that stretches much further back, into the darkest reaches of prehistory.

This collection of essays is based on the topic planned for the 2020 Engelsberg Seminar. That in-person event had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. Some essays were posted online during 2020 and 2021 on Engelsberg Ideas, the foundation’s digital platform, and alongside newly written texts they will be available in a printed book in February 2023.


Man and Technology

Clive Aslet: How Arcadia was won and lost and found again

Journalist and author

Clive Aslet is an award-winning writer and journalist who has published over twenty books. His most recent title The Story of the Country House, is the distillation of four decades spent researching the subject. During a long association with Country Life, he was editor for thirteen years. As author of The Edwardian Country House, The American Country House, Landmarks of Britain and Villages of Britain, he is an authority on the countryside, British history and architecture and life at the turn of the twentieth century on both sides of the Atlantic. He recently became chairman of the Lutyens Trust. In 2019 Clive co-founded the publishing house Triglyph Books with the photographer Dylan Thomas. A lifelong advocate of Classicism, he helped establish the Ax:son Johnson Centre for the Study of Classical Architecture at Cambridge in 2021.

David J. Betz: On guard: the contemporary salience of military fortification

Professor, Department of War Studies, King’s College London

Jimena Canales: Playing with demons: how thought experiments guide scientific innovation

Historian and author

John Darlington: The world that saltpetre built

Emeritus Professor, Imperial College London

Maria Golia: Nature through the eyes of two Victorians: a birdwatcher and his big-game-hunting brother

Journalist and author

Nick Spencer: Humanism matters in the age of AI


Sharon Weinberger: The endless frontier

Journalist and author

Hew Strachan: The art and science of intelligence in war

Professor, International relations, University of St Andrews

Hew Strachan, FBA, FRSE, has been Wardlaw Professor of International Relations at the University of St Andrews since 2015. He is a life fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and an emeritus fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, where he was Chichele Professor of the History of War from 2002 to 2015. His books include The First World War, the first volume of a trilogy; Clausewitz’s On War: A Biography and The Direction of War: Contemporary Strategy in Historical Perspective.

Alexander Lee: The war against printing

Research fellow, University of Warwick

Alexander Lee is a research fellow at the University of Warwick and a specialist in the cultural and political history of the Renaissance in Italy. He has previously held posts at the universities of Oxford, Luxembourg and Bergamo, and writes a regular column for History Today. His publications include The Ugly Renaissance, Humanism and Empire: the Imperial Ideal in Fourteenth-Century Italy, and Machiavelli: His Life and Times.

Tim Jenkins: It came from outer space


Daniel T. Potts: Technology transfer across the ages

Professor of Ancient Near-Eastern Archaeology and History, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University

Daniel T. Potts is Professor of Ancient Near-Eastern Archaeology and History at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University. He is the founding editor-in-chief of the journal Arabian Archaeology & Epigraphy and a corresponding member of the German Archaeological Institute. His books include Mesopotamia, Iran and Arabia from the Seleucids to the Sasanians and Nomadism in Iran: From Antiquity to the Modern Era.

Armand D’Angour: Ancient creations: from the Antikythera mechanism to Western music

Professor of Classics, University of Oxford

Ananyo Bhattacharya: How the Information Age really began


Andrew Wilton: The eighteenth-century technological awakening of artist adventurers

Former Visiting Research Fellow, Tate Britain

Brendan Simms and Constance Simms: Rewiring the world

Director, the Centre for Geopolitics/student Modern Languages, University of Oxford.

Brendan Simms obtained his PhD from the University of Cambridge, where he is a fellow of Peterhouse and director of the Centre for Geopolitics. He is also president of the Project for Democratic Union, a Munich-based student-organised think tank. His books include Britain’s Europe: A Thousand Years of Conflict and Cooperation and Hitler: A Global Biography. Constance Simms read Modern Languages at the University of Oxford.

Helen Thompson: The geopolitical fight to come over green energy

Professor of Political Economy, University of Cambridge

Helen Thompson is Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge University, where she is a Fellow of Clare College and Deputy Head of The School of the Humanities and the Social Sciences. She contributes a fortnightly column to the New Statesman and is a regular contributor to the Talking Politics podcast. Her publications include Oil and the Western Economic Crisis.

Samuel Gregg: The economy and the paradox of technology

Research director, Acton Institute

Andrew Keen: Algorithms vs humanity

Entrepreneur and author

Andrew Keen is a British-American entrepreneur and author, who earned a master’s degree in political science from the University of California, Berkeley. He is executive director of the Silicon Valley innovation salon FutureCast and is host of the TechCrunch chat show ‘Keen On’. His publications include The Cult of the Amateur: How blogs, MySpace, YouTube and the rest of today’s user-generated media are killing our culture and economy and How to Fix the Future: Staying Human in the Digital Age.

Bruce Anderson: For the love of wine


Elisabeth Braw: Who’s watching you and why?

Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Joshua Rovner: Spies as agents of peace

Associate Professor, School of International Service, Washington D.C.

Katja Hoyer: The Germans and their cars: history of a love affair

Journalist and author

Richard J. Aldrich and Christopher Moran: Bond or Blofeld: war, espionage and secrecy in the twenty-first century

Professor of International Security, University of Warwick/Professor of US National Security, University of Warwick

Suzanne Raine: Keeping it simple: how technology shapes the terror threat

Affiliate Lecturer, Centre for Geopolitics, University of Cambridge