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Social History, Religion And Technology: An Interdisciplinary Investigation Into White’s ‘Roots’

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Chapter Summary

In this chapter, the author presents an overview of 'Roots' and appraises certain historical claims made in 'Roots', initially by comparing 'Roots' with parallel passages in Lynn White's earlier Medieval Technology and Social Change, where a much more qualified, if vulnerable, historical narrative is supplied. This chapter considers whether the central message of 'Roots' was historical as opposed to theological, as has been claimed, or whether White's claims extend to both these fields. It turns to issues of methodology, from his determinism to his interpretative assumptions, and introduces some of the findings of Elspeth Whitney, who criticises both White and his critics for ignoring systemic explanations of ecological problems. The Afterword comments on the relation of systemic explanations and explanations like those implicit both in White and in his ecotheological critics that stress individual beliefs and values, suggesting that both are needed.

Keywords: Elspeth Whitney; Lynn White; medieval technology; roots



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