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Francesca Bray (The University of Edinburgh)

In awarding the Society’s highest honor to Francesca Bray we are recognizing both her outstanding scholarship that has been influential, and often crucial, in and beyond the field of the history of technology, and her extensive service to SHOT that has both strengthened existing networks and built global connections and possibilities.

The influence of Bray’s work extends well beyond the confines of historians of technology to several other academic fields. For example, for historians of technology, gender historians in HoT, and Chinese historians, her Technology and Gender. Fabrics of Power in Late Imperial China (University of California Press, 1997) is widely read and cited. In this book Bray discusses a set of everyday technologies which defined women’s social, economic, and moral roles from 1000 to 1800 in China. This book was also awarded the Dexter Prize by SHOT in 1999. Specifically, chapters such as “Fabrics of Power: The Canonical Meanings of Women’s Work” are perfect teaching materials for undergraduate classes on women and technology in China or pre-modern and early modern societies. Bray also contributed to the SHOT-AHA book series “Historical Perspectives on Technology, Culture, and Society” by publishing Technology and Society in Ming China 1368-1644. Her recent book, entitled Technology, Gender and History in Imperial China: Great Transformations Reconsidered (Routledge, 2013), re-examines the common assumptions on the “decline” or the “stagnation” of China in the pre-modern era. She studies technologies from the pre-modern Chinese’s point of view and demonstrates how material settings and practices configured everyday life (such as gender politics) as well as ideologies of government in late imperial China. Meanwhile she has reached out to wider audiences with explorations of approaches to “technology”: examples include her well-cited article “Gender and Technology” in the Annual Review of Anthropology in 2007 and her 2008 definitional intervention “Science, Technique, Technology” in the British Journal for the History of Science.

Bray’s research interest in the history of agriculture and rice continues to yield new perspectives on histories of technology. She co-edited Rice: Global Networks and New Histories (Cambridge University Press, 2015), which showcases fifteen chapters of the history of rice in different societies and time periods that together constitute a global history of rice. She has recently initiated the Moving Crops project at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, and collaborated with Dagmar Schaefer, John Bosco Lourdusamy, Tiago Saraiva, Barbara Hahn, and Alina Sandra Cucu to cultivate a new concept “Cropspace” that connects the history of technology with the history of agriculture, plants, environment, etc.

Francesca’s research collaboration has reached various parts of the world and successfully brought a vigorous and global group of scholars to meet and work together. Many of their collaborations later took place at SHOT annual meetings. Bray supported the recently established Department III at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, which is committed to furthering a more internationalized and interdisciplinary perspective on the history of science and technology. She has served on the advisory board for East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal (EASTS, Duke University Press), and never hesitated to offer encouragement and suggestions since the journal began its publication in 2007. She worked closely with EASTS editorial board members, who are majorly based in Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, China, and Singapore, and edited a special issue on “Constructing Intimacy: Technology, Family and Gender in East Asia” in EASTS in 2008. Her networking among the East and South Asian academic communities has raised the profile of SHOT in these countries in recent years. In particular, she has assiduously reached out to young and well-established historians of technology in the PRC and the scholarly association HoTC (History of Technology in China) there, and encouraged them to participate in SHOT annual meetings and governance.

As the 2015-2016 President of SHOT, Bray contributed to the Society by offering an ambitious vision and various plans to make the society international and global. Since 2012, she actively transformed the Internationalization Committee from a committee that only nominated International Scholars (IS) annually to one that proactively considers strategies to better connect ISs and the SHOT members socially and intellectually in our annual meetings and governance. After becoming an officer, she facilitated the EC and SHOT members awareness of and willingness to collaborate with various regional historical societies of technology, such as the STEP (Science and Technology on the European Periphery), founded in 1999 by historians from Europe’s smaller countries, notably the Mediterranean nations, as well as Belgium, Denmark, Russia and Turkey. When she was the President of SHOT, she oversaw the Singapore meeting in 2016, which epitomized the Society’s multiyear efforts and commitment in internationalization. Francesca further encouraged and guided several scholars (including former ISs) to have their events endorsed by SHOT, and she attended some of these SHOT-endorsed events as a valuable SHOT ambassador. These scholarly events include workshops on “Experiences of Technology in Ottoman and Post-Ottoman Territories at the Turn of the 20th Century,” organized by Nurçin İleri (Istanbul), on “Craft and Innovation in Modern Societies,” that took place in the Chinese National Silk Museum (Hangzhou), and a conference on “Contours of The Future: Technology and Innovation in Cultural Context,” organized by Natalia Nikiforova (St. Petersburg),

Francesca Bray is an exemplar of the accomplishments recognized by the award of SHOT’s Leonardo Da Vinci Medal.