Whether referencing jobs in coal country or foreign entanglements, prices at the pump or climate change, modern American political discourse has increasingly centered on how Americans produce and consume energy. How has increasing energy use transformed American social, political, and economic life? What are the conditions that cause one source of energy to become dominant in a given time and place? And, what are the social and environmental impacts of energy regimes?
This course will examine shifts in the technical systems, policies, and cultural attitudes that shaped the U.S. energy sector from the dawn of the industrial era to the present day. We will begin by investigating how new transportation, manufacturing, and mining technologies led to the widespread use of fossil fuels by the end of the nineteenth century. Topics in the 20th century will include public investment in energy infrastructures; the cultural impacts of electrification and the automobile; and the development of nuclear power. Finally, we will consider present debates over fracking, renewables, and climate change.
This course will prepare students to think critically about how energy shapes American life. Students will develop skills in critical reading, historical thinking, and analytical writing. These skills will aid students taking Advanced Placement exams in American or European History and will prepare them for college-level courses in history, government, and related fields.
Prerequisites: This course is open to all students. Basic knowledge of U.S. History is useful but not essential.