For a history of energy


Introduction: Energy in history, the history of energy

CNRS, UMR Sirice 8138 (Paris)


Energy is a rich concept that can analyze much of the evolution of societies over time. Whether it be the means of production, forms of consumption, or periods of tension or scarcity, the quest for energy prompted humanity to go further in its search for new resources, to ceaselessly innovate,…

From the history of sources and sectors to the history of systems and transitions: how the history of energy has been written in France and beyond

École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales


This historiographical essay shows how historians have dealt with energy since the beginning of the 20th c. and until today. During the two first third of the 20th c., only a handful of authors have tried to give an overview of humans made use of the energy…

Past, present and prospective energy transitions: an invitation to historians

Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London
Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University


This paper argues that historians and their disciplinary practices can enhance the analysis of energy transitions by non-historians. It explains how energy economists and policy analysts have only recently taken account of historical experience and how energy studies have become more inter- and…

Energy consumers, a boundary concept for the history of energy

Sorbonne Université (Faculté des Lettres)/ UMR Sirice


The historical approach of energies consumers is based on several questions on the conceptual frameworks. In the dailylife anthropology framework, energy consumption disappears behind the use of the artefacts and becomes an infra-consumption. The category of « energy » itself presumes an…