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Energy and CivilizationA History$
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Vaclav Smil

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262035774

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262035774.001.0001

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Energy in World History

Energy in World History

(p.385) 7 Energy in World History
Energy and Civilization

Vaclav Smil

The MIT Press

This chapter discusses the place of energy in world history. It examines historical milestones—such as the rise of larger populations organized with greater social complexity into nation-states and supranational collectives, and enjoying a higher quality of life—in terms of dominant energy sources and leading prime movers, as well as the most important socioeconomic consequences of these technical changes. It also considers grand patterns in the consumption of energy throughout history, focusing on the long-term relationship between human accomplishments and dominant energy sources and changing prime movers in terms of energy eras and transitions. Finally, it outlines trends that have accompanied the growth of unit power of inanimate prime movers and the accumulation of their total capacity; transformations of the fossil-fuel era including new structures of social relations; imperatives of energy needs and uses; and the importance of harnessing energies and controlling their conversion to supply.

Keywords:   energy, world history, energy sources, prime movers, energy consumption, energy eras, energy transitions, social relations

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