MESA Book Awards
University of New Hampshire
2019 Albert Hourani Book Award Winner
Frederik Meiton's Electrical Palestine, based on extensive archival research, shows how the visionary plan of a determined Russian engineer to bring electrical power to Mandatory Palestine helped shape our very conception of what Palestine is as a geographical and political reality. Because the engineer, Pinhas Rutenberg, had to work with the British Mandatory authorities, with groups of international investors, and with both the Jewish and Arab communities of Palestine, it illuminates the complex relationships that arise among imperial and colonial power structures, capitalist development plans, technological progress, the dynamics of local communities, and the formation of national identities and nation-states. It shows how the supposedly purely technical challenge of electrification had inescapable political consequences that impacted the Jewish and Arab communities of Mandatory Palestine in very different ways--a lesson that has important implications far beyond the case of Mandatory Palestine, including for our own time, when the relationship between technological development and politics is very much in question. It is lucidly written and so effectively argued that it reads, at times, like a detective novel.