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Book cover for writing on the wall: social media - the first 2000 years
Writing on the Wall: Social Media – The First 2,000 Years by Tom Standage (2013)

Print book
Call number: HM 741 S72 2013 (Webster Library)

Summary: From the papyrus letters that Roman statesmen used to exchange news across the Empire to the advent of hand-printed tracts of the Reformation to the pamphlets that spread propaganda during the American and French revolutions, Tom Standage chronicles the increasingly sophisticated ways people shared information with each other, spontaneously and organically, down the centuries. With the rise of newspapers in the nineteenth century, then radio and television, "mass media" consolidated control of information in the hands of a few moguls. However, the Internet has brought information sharing full circle, and the spreading of news along social networks has reemerged in powerful new ways. Writing on the Wall reminds us how modern behavior echoes that of prior centuries -- the Catholic Church, for example, faced similar dilemmas in deciding whether or how to respond to Martin Luther's attacks in the early sixteenth century to those that large institutions confront today in responding to public criticism on the Internet. Invoking the likes of Thomas Paine and Vinton Cerf, co-inventor of the Internet, Standage explores themes that have long been debated: the tension between freedom of expression and censorship; whether social media trivializes, coarsens, or enhances public discourse; and its role in spurring innovation, enabling self-promotion, and fomenting revolution.

Book cover for the dirt on clean
The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History by Katherine Ashenburg (2007)

Print book
Call number: GT 2845 A84 2007 (Webster Library)

Summary: What could be more routine than taking up soap and water and washing yourself? And yet cleanliness, or the lack of it, is intimately connected to ideas as large as spirituality and sexuality, and historical events that include plagues, the Civil War, and the discovery of germs. For the first-century Roman, being clean meant a two-hour soak in baths of various temperatures, scraping the body, and a final application of oil. For the aristocratic Frenchman in the seventeenth century, it meant changing your shirt once a day and using perfume to cover your own aroma as well as others', but never immersing yourself in water. Now we live in a deodorized world where sales of hand sanitizers and wipes are skyrocketing. Ashenburg's tour of history's baths and bathrooms reveals much about our changing and most intimate selves--what we desire, what we ignore, and what we fear.

Book cover for Brilliant: the evolution of artificial light
Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light by Jane Brox (2010)

Print book
Call number: TH 7900 B68 2010 (Webster Library)

Summary: In Brilliant, Jane Brox explores humankind’s ever-changing relationship to artificial light, from the stone lamps of the Pleistocene to the LEDs embedded in fabrics of the future. More than a survey of technological development, this sweeping history reveals how artificial light changed our world, and how those social and cultural changes in turn led to the pursuit of more ways of spreading, maintaining, and controlling light.

Book cover for the code book
The Code Book: The Evolution of Secrecy from Mary Queen of Scots, to Quantum Cryptography by Simon Singh (1999)

Print book
Call number: Z 103 S56 1999 (Webster Library)

Summary: A look at the world of codes includes a history of how they have affected the world, from the World Wars to the death of Mary, Queen of Scots, and also looks at what the future holds for the field of cryptography.

Book cover for mauve
Mauve: How One Man Invented a Colour that Changed the World by Simon Garfield (2000)

Print book
Call number: QD 22 P47G37 2000 (Vanier Library)

Summary: Mauve is the story of a man who accidentally invented a color, and in the process transformed the world around him. Before 1856, the color in our lives--the reds, blues, and blacks of clothing, paint, print--came from insects or mollusks, roots or leaves, and dyeing was painstaking and expensive. But in 1856 eighteeen-year-old English chemist William Perkin accidentally discovered a way to mass-produce color in a factory. Working on a treament for malaria in his London home laboratory, Perkin found mauve by chance. His experiments failed to result in artificial quinine as he had hoped, but produced instead a dark oily sludge that happened to turn silk a beautiful light purple.

Book cover for a history of the wife
A History of the Wife by Marilyn Yalom (2001)

Print book
Call number: HQ 1206 Y35 2001 (Webster Library)

Summary: From the perspective of modern marriage, the distinguished cultural historian Marilyn Yalom charts the evolution of marriage in the Judeo-Christian world through the centuries and shows how radical that collective change has been.

Book cover for the box
The Box: How the Shipping Container made the World Smaller and the Economy Bigger by Marc Levinson (2006)

Print book
Call number: TA 1215 L47 2006 (Webster Library)

Summary:  Telling the story of the shipping container's creation - and the economic consequences of the sharp fall in transportation costs that containerization brought about - this book offers a history of the revolution in international trade which ultimately heralded the age of globalization.

Book cover for for all the tea in china
For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History by Sarah Rose (2010)

Print book
Call number: HD 9198 G72R67 2010 (Webster Library)

Summary: Rose's remarkable account follows the journey of Robert Fortune, a Scottish gardener, who was deployed by the British East India Company to steal China's tea secrets in 1848. This thrilling narrative combines history, geography, and old-fashioned adventure.

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