In Medieval Technology and Social Change, Lynn White examines the technological developments during the Middle Ages in relation to its effects on the societies of Medieval Europe. White takes into account the very power of technology itself as a catalyst for social transformation. He considers the larger implication of such technology on the social, political, and economic state of Europe in the Middle Ages. Through a series of arguments, White suggests that a substantial amount of societal change in Medieval Europe is the result of the introduction of new, and at times seemingly small, technological innovations. .
White begins his case with an examination into the stirrup. He shows how the introduction of such technology gave rise to effective long-range cavalry, which transformed small conflicts into large scale shock combat, as with the Norman Conquest of England (White, 1962: 36-37). Prior to the stirrup, the fighter was vulnerable on his horse; as he was not fastened tightly nor had any means of fighting or defending himself. But with the introduction of the stirrup the knight was no longer restricted in his methods of fighting nor vulnerable to attacks while undefended (as he could now control the horse with one hand)(White, 1962: 2). Soon, cavalry became an intrinsic part of medieval warfare, and knighthood was perceived as a position synonymous to royalty itself. This inevitably gave rise to a class of aristocratic military warriors who had adopted their own set of codes of behavior, a dedication to chivalry, and a deep-rooted belief in "noble obligation" (White, 1962: 38). Therefore what came to be was not only a political system and class, but also a revolution in societal structure and culture. Thus White demonstrates that the stirrup, though its immediate effect and novelty might have seemed rather simple, was critical to the formation of an entire feudal society in Medieval Europe.