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Any group of people displaced from their own world and into another (that of an Alternate History, an alien civilization, or simply Trapped in the Past) will have people (or, stretching belief, even a single person) that just so happen to have the knowhow to not only fairly accurately recreate their society's general level of technology, but to begin the march of innovation with little to no pause.

Basically, even cast into a society that's roughly at the equivalent of the Bronze Age, a group of a hundred or so usually randomly-assembled people (often military personnel) will be able to haul their new allies right into the midst of the Industrial Revolution within a year or two.

A sort of supertrope of Bamboo Technology... while that trope relies on using local, low-tech materials to roughly approximate "modern" inventions, when Stranded With Edison, a group will manage to make themselves the real thing... and possibly make it better.

Occasionally a related trope appears, in which "stranded with Edison" means that the time travellers find a local wiseman to work with, who alone would understand their ideas. That period's Edison, so to say. See also Giving Radio to the Romans.

Examples of Stranded with Edison include:


  • Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889). After time traveling back to the 6th century, the title Yankee uses his knowledge of manufacturing to build hidden factories that produce modern (1880's) tools and weapons, thus industrializing King Arthur's kingdom.
  • In the Ciaphas Cain novel Death or Glory, their makeshift convoy/militia (made up from the rescued survivors/slaves from a town looted by orks) has just enough specialists to survive: a tracker to help them find water and supply dumps, a vet to serve as an impromtu doctor a technopriest to keep their vehicles running and enough former police, gang members and PDF troops to form a militia and a former not-so-Obstructive Bureaucrat to manage their supplies.
  • Discussed, but averted, in Mostly Harmless: when Arthur Dent is stranded on a planet with an Iron Age culture, he initially thinks he can bring them civilisation, before realising that he doesn't actually know how to make anything. Except sandwiches...
  • In Destroyermen, the crew of two US naval destroyers just happens to have some engineers who have worked in oil fields so that they can drill new oil wells for fuel. Other experts are in abundance (pilots that can design planes), to the point that know-how isn't usually a problem, just materials and facilities. Only once or twice does someone mention they don't actually know how to make something they need, but it's sort of shrugged off with "We'll figure something out."
  • In the Prince Roger series the Bronze Barbarians do have the basic knowledge required to teach their allies how to manufacture moderately advanced guns. Semi-justified in that the characters are all military personnel who were selected in part for having potentially useful skills outside the standard ones required for their post and that while they know the theory they often have to rely on native expertise for the actual details. Additionally several of them have skills that are never actually needed (for example one is a reformed car-jacker and another knows how to knit).


  • Implied at the end of the movie The Time Machine (the 1960 original, not the remake). When Wells leaves after telling his friend Filby about his adventures, he takes three books from his vast library. Filby asks the housekeeper (and the audience), "If you were going to start civilization over again, which three books would you choose?"

Web Original

  • Averted, hard, in the flash-fiction story Rome Sweet Rome. A modern-day regiment of U.S. Marines are suddenly time-warped to ancient Rome. While initially having a huge military advantage against the Romans at first, due to their advanced technology, the marines quickly realize that without modern infrastructure they will be rendered helpless inside a few weeks (as their tanks run out of gas and as their guns run out of bullets), forcing them to consider negotiating with the Romans.
  • The Time Traveler Essentials by Dinosaur Comics author Ryan North are there for preparing you for a situation in which this trope is needed.
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