Energy and Environment in American History, 1750-2005:
Peter A. Shulman
MIT’s Program in History, Anthropology, and STS
Office Hours: Tuesdays, 2-4 or by appointment, in E51-296d
This course uses the prism of energy to examine the history of the United States from the colonial period to the present. We will consider how energy has affected, and is affected by, American society, culture, science and technology, politics, diplomacy, and the environment.
Major questions to keep in mind throughout the course include: how has increasing energy use has transformed American social life, the economy, and politics? What are the relationships between energy consumption and environmental change? What are the relationships between scientific discoveries, technological innovation, and social change? How did the United States grew to be the larger consumer of energy in the history of the world?
Class meets twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays, from 2:30 until 4:00 PM in room 1-150. Monday sessions will usually consist of lectures and Wednesdays of class discussion of the week’s readings. (Exceptions to this schedule for holidays are noted in the syllabus below).
Students will write weekly, two-page response papers on the readings in advance of the week’s discussion session (and to be handed in at the end of that discussion). This assignment is intended to facilitate critical thinking about the readings and your reactions will serve as prompts for our class discussions. NOTE: response papers are not due on the days your other, longer essays are due. In addition, you may drop the lowest graded response from your final grade calculation. See the attached “Guide to Writing Weekly Response Papers” for a more detailed description of how to approach them.
Students have two options for longer writing assignments. Everyone will write a 5-8 page mid-term essay, due in class on Monday, October 30, which will address themes raised in the first half of the course. Details on this paper assignment will be given in the beginning of October.
Writing option one involves a second 5-8 page final essay, due in class on Wednesday, December 6, plus a final exam during the exam period.
Writing option two recognizes that not everyone likes to take final exams. If you choose this option, you will instead write a single, 15-20 page research paper, due in class on Wednesday, December 13. If you choose this option, YOU MUST LET ME KNOW by Monday, October 16 so we can discuss your topic and research strategy.
Grades will be determined as follows: 15% response papers; 20% class participation; 20% mid-term essay; 45% final evaluation (for writing option one, this means 20% second paper and 25% final exam; for writing option two, 45% for the 15-20 page final research paper.
Required readings are listed in the syllabus below. Required books are available at the COOP or on reserve at Dewey Library in E53. Also, see attached “Guide for Purchasing Books On-Line” for advice on tracking down less expensive copies of books. Other readings—essays, books sections, and other materials, are available on our Stellar course site:
• Books at the COOP and on course reserve at Dewey Library:
Richard White, The Organic Machine: The Remaking of the Columbia River. New York: Hill and Wang, 1995.
Elliott Gorn, Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America. New York: Hill and Wang, 2002.
Adam Rome, The Bulldozer in the Countryside: Suburban Sprawl and the Rise of American Environmentalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Daniel Horowitz, Jimmy Carter and the Energy Crisis of the 1970s. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004.
Lawrence Badash, Scientists and the Development of Nuclear Weapons: From Fission to the Limited Test Ban Treaty, 1939-1963. Humanities Press International, Inc., 1995.
Spencer Weart, The Discovery of Global Warming. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004.
• Readings marked [S] on syllabus below available on the course’s Stellar site.
Topics & Readings:
• Wed., Sept. 6 – Introduction: Energy and Society
• Mon., Sept. 11 – Energy in Early America: Fields, Fire, Wind, and Water
• Wed., Sept. 13 – Discussion
• Mon., Sept. 18 – Industrial Revolution I: Coal and the Transformation of America
• Wed., Sept. 20 – Discussion
<NO CLASS Monday, September 25 for Student Holiday>
• Wed., Sept. 27 – Inventing Energy: Thermodynamics in the 19th Century
<NO CLASS Monday, October 2 for Yom Kippur>
• Wed., Oct. 4 – Discussion
<NO CLASS Monday, October 9 for Columbus Day>
• Wed., Oct. 11 – Combined Lecture and Discussion: Industrial Revolution II: Miners, Strikes, and Labor
• Mon., Oct. 16 – Electrification I: Building the Network
• Wed., Oct. 18 – Discussion
• Mon., Oct. 23 – Electrification II: Energy, Gender, and the Home
• Wed., Oct. 25 – Discussion
• Mon., Oct. 30 – The Industrialization of Agriculture
• Wed., Nov. 1 – Discussion
• Mon., Nov. 6 – The Century of Oil
• Wed., Nov. 8 – Discussion
• Mon., Nov. 13 – Automobiles, Suburbanization, and American Demography in the Twentieth Century
• Wed., Nov. 15 – Discussion
• Mon., Nov. 20 – Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons
• Wed., Nov. 22 – Discussion
• Mon., Nov. 27 – Limits to Growth and the Energy Crisis of the 1970s
• Wed., Nov. 29 – Discussion
• Mon., Dec. 4 – Global Warming
• Wed., Dec. 6 – Discussion
• Mon., Dec. 11 – The World Ahead
• Wed., Dec. 13 – Discussion