I don’t generally expect to come across a book that talks about the works of Robert Lewis Stevenson, Jules Verne and William Morris on a science and technology website but oh the wonders of the internet! MIT historian Rosalind Williams writes about the three authors in her new book The Triumph of Human Empire: Verne, Morris, and Stevenson at the End of the World. The book examines their responses to technological and social change.

Stevenson, for example, apparently wrote a letter to Henry James in 1890 explaining that his disillusionment with technology and rapid change is what prompted him to go live in Samoa. This from a man who came from a family of civil engineers.

We think of our own times as being one of rapid change, but Verne lived through the introduction of trains, trams, the telegraph, telephone, phonograph, steamship, and commercial electricity.

Williams sets out to examine the literary works for insight into how people respond to rapid social change.

Doesn’t that sound like an interesting book?

Just a short one tonight. It’s one of those evenings in which my mind draws up blank and reading is so much more appealing than trying to write about reading.

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