STS.038 | Fall 2006 | Undergraduate

Energy and Environment in American History: 1705-2005


This section features the required readings listed by topic. For some topics, reading questions are available.

1 Introduction: Energy and Society    
2-3 Energy in Early America: Fields, Fire, Wind, and Water

White, Richard. The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River. New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 1996, pp. ix-xi and 3-29. ISBN: 9780809015832.

Pyne, Stephen. Fire in America: A Cultural History of Wildland and Rural Fire. Reprint ed. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1997 (1982), pp. 66-83 and 123-142. ISBN: 9780295975924.

4-5 Industrial Revolution I: Coal and the Transformation of America

White, Richard. The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River. New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 1996, pp. 30-58. ISBN: 9780809015832.

Thoreau, Henry David. “Sounds.” In Walden and Other Writings. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble Books, 1994, pp. 92-106. ISBN: 9781566193061.

Greenberg, Dolores. “Energy, Power, and Perceptions of Social Change in the Early Nineteenth Century.” American Historical Review 95, no. 3 (June 1990): 693-714.

6-7 Inventing Energy: Thermodynamics in the 19th Century

Von Helmholtz, Hermann. “The Conservation of Force: A Physical Memoir (1847).” In Selected Writings of Hermann von Helmholtz. Edited by Russell Kahl. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1971, pp. 3-26, 48-9, and 52-4. ISBN: 9780819540393.

The Helmholtz material is dense at times. Try to get through it, but focus more on his argument. Who is he writing for? What is he trying to argue? What evidence does he use? What rhetorical strategies does he pursue? Is he convincing?

Rabinbach, Anson. The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue, and the Origins of Modernity. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1990, selections. ISBN: 9780465031306.

Rabinbach here links developments in science to European thinking about people and the economy.

Riskin, Jessica. “The Defecating Duck, Or, The Ambiguous Origins of Artificial Life.” Critical Inquiry 29, no. 4 (Summer 2003): 599-633.

8 Industrial Revolution II: Miners, Strikes, and Labor

Gorn, Elliott. Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America. New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 2002.

Songs and Ballads of the Bituminous Miners (mining songs collected by George Korson).

9-10 Electrification I: Building the Network Buy at MIT Press Nye, David. Electrifying America: Social Meanings of a New Technology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992, selections. ISBN: 9780262640305. (PDF)
11-12 Electrification II: Energy, Gender, and the Home

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. “How the Refrigerator Got Its Hum.” In The Social Shaping of Technology: How the Refrigerator Got Its Hum. Edited by Donald MacKenzie and Judy Wajcman. Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press, 1985, pp. 202-18. ISBN: 9780335150267.

———. “The ‘Industrial Revolution’ in the Home: Household Technology and Social Change in the Twentieth Century.” Technology and Culture 17, no. 1 (January 1976): 1-23.

Goldstein, Carolyn M. “From Service to Sales: Home Economics in Light and Power, 1920-1940.” Technology and Culture 38, no. 1 (January 1997): 121-52.

13-14 The Industrialization of Agriculture Fitzgerald, Deborah. Every Farm a Factory: The Industrial Ideal in American Agriculture. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003, pp. 1-32 and 75-105. ISBN: 9780300088137.  
15-16 The Century of Oil

Black, Brian. Petrolia: The Landscape of America’s First Oil Boom. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000, selections. ISBN: 9780801863172.

Yergin, Daniel. The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power . Reissue ed. New York, NY: Free Press, 1993, selections. ISBN: 9780671799328.

17-18 Automobiles, Suburbanization, and American Demography in the Twentieth Century

Rome, Adam. The Bulldozer in the Countryside: Suburban Sprawl and the Rise of American Environmentalism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001. ISBN: 9780521804905.

You’re welcome to read the whole thing, but at least read the introduction, chapters 1, 2, 4, 7, and the conclusion.

19-20 Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons

Badash, Lawrence. Scientists and the Development of Nuclear Weapons: From Fission to the Limited Test Ban Treaty, 1939-1963. Reprint ed. New York, NY: Humanities Press International, Inc., 1999. ISBN: 9781573927154.

I encourage you to read the whole Badash book if you can-it is short-but we will focus our discussion on chapters 2-4 (pages 11 to 62).

White, Richard. The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River. New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 1996, pp. 59-88. ISBN: 9780809015832.

21-22 Limits to Growth and the Energy Crisis of the 1970s

Horowitz, Daniel. Jimmy Carter and the Energy Crisis of the 1970s. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004, selections. ISBN: 9780312401221.

For Horowitz, you don’t have to read the whole book (unless, of course, you want to). Do be sure to read the Introduction (pages 1-28), as well as the documents on pages 33-42; 120-33; 138-49; 161-71. The section at the beginning called “Cast of Characters” (page xvii) and the timeline for the 70s energy crises at the end (page 185) may be useful references. For those of you who have been desiring more primary sources, this is your week.

For this reading, pay attention to how the different authors, from the President on to his advisors, supporters, and critics, diagnose and propose treatment for the 1979 phase of the “energy crisis.” What was the crisis, and why did it look so different to so many people?

Hubbert, M. King. “Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels.” Presented at the American Petroleum Institute conference, March 8, 1956.

The article is pretty short, and I hope you find it interesting. Be sure to look for what are Hubbert’s key points in the article, as well as his vision for the future.

Jimmy Carter Speeches (transcripts and audio)

23-24 Global Warming

Weart, Spencer. The Discovery of Global Warming. Reprint ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780674016378.

It’s ok to skim parts that don’t seem as relevant to the overall picture, but do try to make your way through the book. Chapters 1-2, 5, and 7-8 are the most important.

You may also want to check out The Discovery of Global Warming, the book’s Web site at the American Institute of Physics, where Weart has published a much longer version of this book with even more annotations, and a gigantic bibliography of the scientific literature on climate change.

25-26 The World Ahead

Davis-Floyd, Robbie E. “Storying Corporate Futures: The Shell Scenarios.” In Corporate Futures: The Diffusion of the Culturally Sensitive Corporate Form. Edited by George Marcus. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1998. ISBN: 9780226504544.

McPhee, John. “Coal Train.” In Uncommon Carriers. New York, NY: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2006, pp. 185-236. ISBN: 9780374280390.

The Bush-Cheney Energy Plan: National Energy Policy. Report of the National Policy Development Group, May 2001. (PDF -2.4MB)

Skim the National Energy Policy. It is long. Read it to get a sense of what the plan actually is/was.