Sunday, 14 September 2014

How the Future was Imagined 100 Years Ago...

Le Petit Journal, 30 December 1923
The Spanish arm of the RT news network recently featured images from Le Petit Journal, part of the digital collection at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. These illustrate the most exciting scientific and technological innovations of the future, as imagined by people in the 20s and 30s. Amazing to think that this is now close to 100 years ago!

Published from 1863 to 1944, Le Petit Journal was a middle-brow daily Parisian newspaper that satirised social and political events of the day. The images featured on RT include underwater cities, towering skyscrapers and airborne tram networks. This faith in technology is indicative of a general optimism about the future, in common with other accounts from around the turn of the century.

For instance, in 1902 The Atlantic Monthly published the American economist John Bates Clark's mock retrospective of the coming era, which envisages 'the building of good dwellings, and of parks and playgrounds many stories in height, with their frames of massive steel' and the seas full with 'passenger vessels so vast as to seem like floating cities'. However, as we can see from the examples in Le Petit Journal, twenty years on the First World War has left its mark. Illustrations such as 'Les Tanks Amphibies' from 30 December 1923 (see above) depict sinister modifications to the weapons of destruction that were developed during WWI, and hint at the dark side of technological progress.

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