First of all: sorry for my english.

I'm writing a post-apocalyptic book and I got some simple questions before I can finish shapping its world. In my fiction, the world fell apart (doesn't matter why), and people abandoned the cities, avoided them like plague. They are cursed, an image of ancient times, squeletons of metals, etc. So, a lot of knowledge is lost three centuries later. There's no fantasy here, no zombies, no aliens, etc. The new communities they founded are ruled by artisans, people who, through oral tradition (we got plenty of illiteracy in this generation of people), have the last remnant of knowledge of the world. This way, there's only one city (almost 2000-4000 population) who jelousy keep the knowledge of electricity by fixing five turbines of an eolic park, at least to light its market at night. Others are getting rich by the production of glass jewelry, exporting wood, etc.

In a matter of resources, the world has changed a little bit ('cause we warm it, for example), so you got one region of heavy rainy forest (like the northeast of my country, I'm from Argentina), and a extreme desert hundred of miles away (like the west or the south. We got a lot of biomes). There is plenty of thing to think about, like mining in the mountains of the Andes for example. I think I need some help.

My question is: Which technical knowledge could persevere that doesn't require electricity and that ain't too obvious to benefit some communities?

We all know, in a general aspect, how to cook with fire and coal, make bricks and raise a building, light it with fire or candles, harvest our food, do some metal crafting. Black gunpowder and simple gunsmithing ain't rare, but could be a thing. I need things that ain't too obvious like, I don't know, fix an aero turbine and raise electricity, use steam, etc.

Edit: Sorry, I forgot to clear out that there's no writing information of the past (at least not understandable). Doesn't matter the details, but there's only oral tradition, as I mention before.

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    $\begingroup$ What happened to the books? You know, those billions of books printed on paper made of wood pulp? There are tens of millions of electrotechnics textbooks. And they had steam power and a decent chemical industry and advanced metallurgy and even photography long before they had electric lightbulbs... There was an entire technological world driven by water wheels before steam power; and everything is written in the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (published in 1911, 29 volumes) of which one million copies were printed. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 3 '19 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ I forgot to clear out about the books, there aren't any,or someone who can understand them. Thank you, added to the question. $\endgroup$ – MAG Sep 3 '19 at 19:06
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, it's not intended to be serious. All right. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Sep 3 '19 at 19:09
  • $\begingroup$ Did people just abandon the cities, or turned sour on knowledge and technology in general? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Sep 3 '19 at 19:18
  • $\begingroup$ In my fiction the cities were burned down pretty quickly. People were forced to abandon them with just a few things. Some generations later, there is a lot of knowledge lost. $\endgroup$ – MAG Sep 3 '19 at 19:29


I am a great fan of Ambroise Pare. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambroise_Par%C3%A9 I recommend anyone interested in this stuff read his Apologie and Treatise. He is a super engaging and interesting writer and you really get a feel for his personality and the times in which he lived.

Pare was a 16th century barber-surgeon and is best known for his innovations in treating war wounds. But he knew a ton of other stuff, medical and otherwise. His writings have instructions on midwifery, treatment of cataracts, treatment of cancers, chronic infections, and so on. How big a deal is it if someone shows up who can remove your cataracts? Also he calls out a lot of crap people do that does not work.

The barber surgeons learned medicine as a trade: word of mouth. So too in your world. Pare's stories include many where he shows up and fixes some suffering soul who had been sick for a long time. Steal them for your story!

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With such a tiny population (2000-4000 is a small town, not a "city"), very little will be passed on.

Example: The city's size might support a single doctor and a single lawyer, each with a single apprentice. Certainly not an entire medical school or law school. The entire scientific background of clinical medicine will be lost in favor of merely practical applications. Similarly, most of law (which relies upon written records) will be lost.

Without basic literacy, the electric generators will simply not be repairable - the two-or-so mechanics in town NEED to record (and refer to) accurate measurements. Camshafts simply don't make themselves. The ability to deliver predictable voltage and amperage, and to diagnose electrical faults must be trained systematically (safely) or apprentices will be electrocuted regularly...and safety works best when written. Else folks forget.

Without centers of learning (usually located in towns so students and teachers have a place to live), your population will be over 90% subsistence farmers, with very little disposable income to buy those artisan-made goods. And since those artisans won't know much about basic medical care or sanitation, their productive lives will tend to be short.

With only a single town to function as a market center and government center, your entire population of around 20,000-30,000 must live within about 10 miles of the town (else it's too far to bother going to market). They seem likely to be savaged by cholera and/or malaria epidemics (hope your lone doctor or two mechanics don't die!). With such a small area, likely within a single weather pattern, famine during some years seems likely. High death rates lead to knowledge loss, too.

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  • $\begingroup$ 2000-4000 is all right for a medieval town. We don't know much about this post-apocalyptic society structure to make assumptions. Maybe this city specializes in electrical and mechanical craft and it doesn't need any farmers? $\endgroup$ – Alexander Sep 3 '19 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexander well, we know that they don't value writing and do value artisans. From that, I think we can infer a bit - and those inferences seem to head away from industrial production or systematic education fairly quickly. You're right that I did not dive deep into those inferences, and am indeed assuming facts not stated by the OP (good catch!) $\endgroup$ – user535733 Sep 3 '19 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks you for the answers. I already think about electricity specialization,but you give me a point about population that I need to rethink. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – MAG Sep 4 '19 at 18:32

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