Cover of Energy
Energy's History
Toward a Global Canon
Daniela Russ and Thomas Turnbull

March 2025
232 pages.



Energy history is an approach to understanding the past that takes changes in the human exploitation of Earth's energies as its object of inquiry. This interdisciplinary field documents and analyzes how humans thought about, harnessed, stored, and exploited stocks and flows of energy. In recent decades, in response to evidence of the effect of fossil fuel use in our climatic system and coinciding with an energy turn across the humanities, a new urgency and purpose has been ascribed to such work. Energy's History challenges abstract and universalizing conceptions of energy's history-making capacities. This collection contains twelve chapters that present, analyze, and contextualize a primary source. The contributors focus on ideas, events, and statements that recorded and critiqued the distinct historical paths of energy, thereby broadening the scope of where and what constitutes energy history.

As energy's world-making has enmeshed ever more of the planet into a dangerous compact with fossil fuels, energy histories must be revised within this new energy-historical reality. This volume both presents persuasive visions of energy-driven development beyond the Western capitalist model and provides an expansive and critical account of the ways in which energy histories have shaped the past and impact the present.

About the authors

Daniela Russ is a historical sociologist at the University of Leipzig's Global and European Studies Institute.

Thomas Turnbull is a historical geographer at the Max-Planck-Institute for the History of Science, Berlin.