Why might a historian study technological advancement as part of the historical context of an event?

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Many historical events are determined either by technological advances or technological limitations.

In military history, technology plays a major role in the success or failure of military campaigns, with the more technologically advanced military often winning out against less technologically adept societies. The development of the trireme, for example, was a major factor in Athens becoming a naval power, and the necessity of finding rowers for triremes and men able to serve as hoplites in ground warfare influenced the social structure of Greek city states. Much of the Spanish conquest of South America was enabled by more advanced military technology, while in the twentieth century, nuclear technology and the threat of mutually assured destruction have influenced diplomacy and geopolitics.

Irrigation and agricultural technology influence patterns of settlement, wealth, population growth and social organization. Perhaps the greatest social upheavals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were due to the Industrial Revolution; one cannot study the Reform Bills, for example, with understanding how changing technology enabled the growth of the great manufacturing cities of Europe. 

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