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Energy, Economy and Environment c.1700-2015

Energy, Economy and Environment c.1700-2015

(Dr P Warde)

This course examines the relationships between economic development, energy consumption, and environmental impacts over the course of industrialization. It provides a solid grounding in theoretical approaches to the role of energy in the economy and the modelling of historical energy systems, and a long-term overview of the key developments in energy consumption and extraction. The course proceeds roughly chronologically, using key case studies to examine contentious issues in the history of energy, their relationship with wider economic and social trends, and particular methodological approaches from Ecological Economics to Science and Technology Studies. Themes covered will include the role and necessity of coal in the Industrial Revolution; the development, diffusion and impact of the steam engine as a general purpose technology; debates and crises over energy scarcity from 'wood shortage' to repeated 20th century fears of 'peak oil'; understanding the transformation of energy flows in different forms of agriculture from 1850 to the present; adoption of new household energy technology and consumer behaviour; comparative study of energy policy debates, especially with regard to nuclear power; and the perception and policy response to pollution from burning fossil fuels. Case studies will primarily draw on examples from Britain, Europe and North America but include global perspectives.

  1. Understanding energy and the economy
  2. Organic economies and Industrial Revolution
  3. Energy and technological change
  4. Energy ‘crisis’, scarcity and transition
  5. Agrarian transformations
  6. Consumers: choices and consequences
  7. Policy and prediction
  8. Pollution and Protection