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Enlightened Mills: Mechanizing Olive Oil Production in Mediterranean Europe

From: Technology and Culture
Volume 45, Number 2, April 2004
pp. 277-304 | 10.1353/tech.2004.0106


In the latter part of the eighteenth century, reformers in southern Europe sought to revitalize the political economy of the region. As Massimo Mazzotti puts it in "Enlightened Mills: Mechanizing Olive Oil Production in Mediterranean Europe," they believed that "political and social advancement . . . would follow naturally from economic liberalization and the introduction of new technologies." Olive oil production dominated commercial activity around the Mediterranean, so reformers naturally concentrated their attention on that industry. Traditional oil-manufacturing technology "was a constitutive element of southern European societies," Mazzotti writes, and the production of oil was thoroughly bound up with traditional landscapes and customs; reformers made headway "only where [they] succeeded in reshaping traditional ways of life as well as traditional machinery." Mazzotti traces the many points of conflict-"such issues as the nature of olive oil, trade, control of the production process, the conditions of ownership of land and machinery, work discipline and labor organization, and the forging of new power relations in southern European society"-that conditioned the technical features of mechanized oil production in Mediterranean Europe.