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A Brief History of Motion

From the Wheel, to the Car, to What Comes Next

Tom Standage

Bloomsbury Publishing

A Brief History of Motion Download image

ISBN10: 1635573610
ISBN13: 9781635573619


272 Pages



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Tom Standage's fleet-footed and surprising global histories have delighted readers and cemented his reputation as one of our leading interpreters of technologies past and present. Now, he returns with a provocative account of a sometimes-overlooked form of technology—personal transportation—and explores how it has shaped societies and cultures over millennia.

Beginning around 3,500 BCE with the wheel—a device that didn't catch on until a couple thousand years after its invention—Standage zips through the eras of horsepower, trains, and bicycles, revealing how each successive mode of transit embedded itself in the world we live in, from the geography of our cities to our experience of time to our notions of gender. Then, delving into the history of the automobile's development, Standage explores the social resistance to cars and the upheaval that their widespread adoption required. Cars changed how the world was administered, laid out, and policed, how it looked, sounded, and smelled—and not always in the ways we might have preferred.

Today—after the explosive growth of ride-sharing and years of breathless predictions about autonomous vehicles—the social transformations spurred by coronavirus and overshadowed by climate change create a unique opportunity to critically reexamine our relationship to the car. With A Brief History of Motion, Standage overturns myths, considers roads not taken, and invites us to look at our past with fresh eyes so we can create the future we want to see.


Praise for A Brief History of Motion

“Wonderfully detailed . . . deftly zips through more than 5,000 years of getting from one place to another.”Air Mail

“Tom Standage has a gift for explaining how our modern world came to be and might evolve. In A Brief History of Motion, his skills as a historian and his trademark insight and wit shine in a way that will make your mind whir every time you hop on a bike or get behind the wheel of a car. This book is full of surprises and an absolute delight.”—Ashlee Vance, The New York Times-bestselling author of Elon Musk

“Perceptive, pragmatic, but never pedestrian, this is an irrepressible survey of how we've travelled through the ages, and it zips along like the most pleasurable of journeys.”—Simon Garfield, The New York Times-bestselling author of Just My Type and On the Map

“On the past, present, and future of transportation, Tom Standage has crafted the book to read, full of anecdote and keen observation, and seamlessly written.”—Tyler Cowen, Professor of Economics, George Mason University, and The New York Times-bestselling author of The Great Stagnation and Average Is Over

“Tom Standage takes us on a quick spin, from no wheels for anybody to nobody at the wheel—much of it over back roads that were entirely new to me.”—George Dyson, author of Turing's Cathedral and Analogia

“A witty, expansive, evolutionary look at transportation history . . . Standage nimbly touches all the bases in this sprightly historical race.”Kirkus Reviews

“Standage believes a look back at the history of wheeled vehicles and their impacts is useful to guide us toward the future . . . This is a well-researched exploration of an urgent subject.”Booklist

“Standage . . . delivers a brisk and entertaining history of personal transportation . . . Full of easy-to-understand history lessons and technical explanations, this is a well-informed look at how innovation, when properly guided, can pave the way to a brighter future.”Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Tom Standage

Tom Standage is deputy editor of the Economist and the author of six previous history books, including Writing on the Wall, the New York Times bestsellers A History of the World in 6 Glasses and An Edible History of Humanity, and The Victorian Internet, a history of the telegraph. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, Wired, and other publications. Standage holds a degree in engineering and computer science from Oxford University. He lives in London. @TomStandage