Waterpower romance: the cultural myth of dying watermills in German hydro-narratives around 1900

dc.contributor.authorLimmer, Agnes
dc.contributor.authorZumbrägel, Christian
dc.date.accessioned2023-08-01T12:04:51Z
dc.date.available2023-08-01T12:04:51Z
dc.date.issued2020-07-23
dc.date.updated2023-06-15T12:56:13Z
dc.description.abstractEven in the twenty-first century, myths of preindustrial forms of energy utilization are woven around watermills, waterwheels, and traditional millscapes. Along German watercourses, many grinding shops and hammer mills held on to waterwheels and delivered mechanical rather than electric power well into the twentieth century. It is not the case that the days of these “old technologies” (Edgerton 2008) were numbered as soon as hydroelectricity and “modern” hydraulic turbines appeared in the 1880s. When analyzing the dominating contemporaneous discourses around hydropower, it is easy to overlook these tendencies of historical persistence. This is not surprising, considering that scientific, literary, and preservationist narratives around 1900––actively and subtly––propagated and spread the idea of Muehlensterben, or the myth of dying watermills that has been rehearsed over and over again in reflections on hydropower history. In this article, we challenge the popular imaginaries of “old” and “outmoded” watermills in a two-step approach. Firstly, we contrast the well-known transition at the advent of hydroelectricity with hydropower activities, which took place simultaneously in Germany’s traditional commercial landscapes. Here, waterwheels remained in good use, despite the electrification and scientific development of hydraulic turbines. Secondly, we deconstruct the romantic bias towards the preindustrial symbolism of the waterwheel by analyzing different arguments in professional journals as well as romanticizing and nostalgic literature. We combine approaches and empirical material of both historical and literary sciences to gain a better understanding of how different narratives reinforced the image of watermills and waterwheels being outdated. In this respect, the interdisciplinary approach contributes to the emerging field of the Environmental Humanities.en
dc.identifier.eissn1877-7244
dc.identifier.issn1877-7236
dc.identifier.urihttps://depositonce.tu-berlin.de/handle/11303/19229
dc.identifier.urihttps://doi.org/10.14279/depositonce-18025
dc.language.isoen
dc.rights.urihttps://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
dc.subject.ddc600 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften::600 Technik::600 Technik, Technologie
dc.subject.otherhydropoweren
dc.subject.otherwaterwheelen
dc.subject.otherhydroelectricityen
dc.subject.otherHeimatschutzde
dc.subject.otherMuehlensterbende
dc.subject.otherpreservationistsen
dc.subject.otherromanticizingen
dc.subject.otherenergy transitionen
dc.subject.otherenergy humanitiesen
dc.subject.otherenvironmental humanitiesen
dc.subject.otherhistory of technologyen
dc.subject.otherliterary scienceen
dc.subject.otherenvironmental historyen
dc.titleWaterpower romance: the cultural myth of dying watermills in German hydro-narratives around 1900en
dc.typeArticle
dc.type.versionpublishedVersion
dcterms.bibliographicCitation.doi10.1007/s12685-020-00252-6
dcterms.bibliographicCitation.issue2
dcterms.bibliographicCitation.journaltitleWater History
dcterms.bibliographicCitation.originalpublishernameSpringer
dcterms.bibliographicCitation.originalpublisherplaceHeidelberg
dcterms.bibliographicCitation.pageend204
dcterms.bibliographicCitation.pagestart179
dcterms.bibliographicCitation.volume12
dcterms.rightsHolder.referenceCreative-Commons-Lizenz
tub.accessrights.dnbfree
tub.affiliationFak. 1 Geistes- und Bildungswissenschaften::Inst. Philosophie-, Literatur-, Wissenschafts- und Technikgeschichte::FG Technikgeschichte
tub.publisher.universityorinstitutionTechnische Universität Berlin

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