A Brief History of Motion: From the Wheel, to the Car, to What Comes Next

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By Tom Standage

cover image of A Brief History of Motion: From the Wheel, to the Car, to What Comes Next

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From the bestselling author of A History of the World in 6 Glasses, an eye-opening road trip through 5,500 years of humans on the go, revealing how transportation inevitably shapes civilization.

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.

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A Brief History of Motion: From the Wheel, to the Car, to What Comes Next