Abstract

abstract:

In the eighteenth century, the British Empire attempted to transfer silk reeling technology from Piedmont in Italy to its colony of Georgia in America. The initial scheme involved the Piedmontese spinner Jane Mary Camuse, who, after a few years in Georgia, refused to cooperate as expected. According to the colonial authorities, her insolent behavior was the main reason for the scheme's slow progress. This article exposes this narrative as a self-serving distortion of the colonial archive and reframes the Georgia scheme in light of the embodied expertise of Piedmont's spinners. I argue that Piedmont's legal system acted on spinners' bodies and constructed them as experts, yet this expertise got lost in migration. The notion of technology transfer proves insufficient to account for the effect of displacement on migrant workers' expertise. By situating embodied expertise in the history of technology transfer, this article argues that the history of machines is incomplete without the history of labor.

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