This paper explores what it might mean for historians to take seriously the shared history of firearms and cameras, two technologies that co-evolved in the 19th century and that have had a profound impact on society ever since. As David Campbell writes, “the technologies of the gun and camera…evolved in lockstep.” (Campbell 2012; Landau 2002; Virilio 1984). My paper extends this notion by analyzing further the many different and often unexpected aspects of the historical relationship between cameras and guns. Drawing on new archival research on 19th and early 20th century camera and firearm production and consumption in Britain and the U.S., my paper documents their complementarity at several levels (of structure, chemistry, industrial organization, research, and marketing), aiming to address how and why the technologies function, why they are interoperable, and how their study highlights new ways of thinking about technoscience and the ‘black boxes’ of history. Technologies such as cameras and guns, I suggest, pose certain shared methodological problems for historians and raise broader questions about the writing of history and the role of the historian in ethical discussions about their production and use.
Jennifer Tucker, History Department and Science in Society Program, Wesleyan University
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