- Forty-first Symposium of the International Committee for the History of Technology“Technology in Times of Transition,” Brasov, Romania, 29 July–2 August 2014
The forty-first annual symposium of the International Committee for the History of Technology (ICOHTEC) was hosted by the Transylvania University of Brasov, Romania, from 29 July to 2 August 2014. The main theme, “Technology in Times of Transition,” was perfectly chosen for a meeting held in Eastern Europe, since over the past few decades the entire region experienced a thorough transformation from communist regimes to modern democracies. This can be clearly seen in the case of Romania, which previously hosted the eleventh ICOHTEC symposium in 1981 while still under the dictatorship of Ceausescu. The main topic of that gathering was “Technology, Humanism, and Peace: Historical Aspects,” which still seems to be relevant to current developments in Romania’s immediate neighborhood.
The forty-first ICOHTEC symposium was unique in two ways. First, it had been a long time since so many scholars from Eastern Europe and the Balkans attended the symposium. This applied particularly to Romanians, who welcomed the opportunity to participate in an international conference in their country. Altogether, there were fifty-two scholars from Romania, [End Page 241] six from Poland and Russia, three from Hungary, and two each from Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Croatia. Second, ICOHTEC got younger. Although there are no official statistics of the ages of participants, younger scholars and Ph.D. students were definitely more prevalent than at previous meetings.
The symposium was organized by Elena Helerea and her team from the Transylvania University of Brasov. All sessions were held in the Aula building, within walking distance from the historic city center and conference hotels. The local organizing committee did a magnificent job of combining a near-perfect organization with warm hearted hospitality. In keeping with tradition, the symposium opened with the Kranzberg Lecture, delivered by Alexandre Herlea (France), president of ICOHTEC from 2001–05 and Romanian by birth. In his talk, “The History of Technology and the European Unity,” he analyzed how both our discipline and the federalist vision of Europe evolved over time.
The scientific program featured both new topics and traditional ICOHTEC themes, although, because a number of our long time members could not make it to Brasov, some well-established topics were not covered this year. Many participants responded to the conference’s main theme of “Technology in Times of Transition,” varying their approaches accordingly to their vastly different backgrounds, thus making their sessions thought-provoking and sparkling with lively discussions.
Among sessions addressing the main theme was one organized by ICOHTEC’s president, Timo Myllyntaus (Finland), who gathered eleven speakers to address East–West technology transfer during the cold war. Among them, Aaro Sahari and Saara Matala, both from Finland, spoke about Soviet–Finnish relations in shipbuilding, while Richard Vahrenkamp’s (Germany) and Emiliya Karaboeva’s (Bulgaria) papers dealt with international truck transportation during that uneasy period. Robert Cantoni (Italy) discussed the Western attitude toward Soviet expansion in the oil market in the 1960s. An interesting account of industrial espionage during the cold war was delivered by Mirosław Sikora (Poland), who argued that the Soviets encouraged and even instructed satellites states to launch clandestine actions against Western countries and later coordinated the interchange of stolen technologies. Two Russian scholars, Vasily Borisov and Elena Kochetkova, talked respectively about implementing Western electronic and forest industries technologies in the former Soviet Union.
Six sessions were devoted to the social history of military technology, grouped under the heading “Annual Symposium on the Social History of Military Technology.” As in previous years, the symposium was organized by Barton Hacker (U.S.), who unfortunately could not attend; Ciro Paoletti (Italy) volunteered to chair the sessions. New participants joined with longtime members to enjoy the variety of topics presented. Chelsea Medlock [End Page 242] (U.S.) examined the substitution of horses with mechanized transportation in the West’s militaries from 1850 to 1950. Yoel Bergman (Israel) offered explanations as to why guncotton was not used at large by both sides in the American Civil War. Ryan Patterson (U...