A 2023 Choice Reviews Outstanding Academic Title
Written by a leading scholar, this essential introduction to the history of energy traces one of humans’ most basic ecological interactions: energy exchange. From fire to agriculture, water wheels to electric dynamos, the rise in intensity led humans to define a new “high energy” existence during the twentieth century. Industrialization and consumption increased the connection between energy and economic and political power, clarifying its importance throughout the world wars and into the Cold War. To Have and Have Not reveals a world in which energy supply now defines global standing, starkly revealing the connection between history and current events that perfectly situates our modern conundrum of a future without fossil fuels. Climate change and the supply of sustainable energy now permeates our modern policy making as we bear witness to the waning years of energy borrowed from the distant past. Brian Black argues that our history of growing energy reliance and past transitions is essential context for understanding our inevitable shift to cleaner energy. Placing this story within the current, rapidly changing historical discourse, this book is timely and persuasive as it lays out our current transition from fossil fuels.
Brian C. Black is Distinguished Professor of History and Environmental Studies at Penn State Altoona. He is the author of several books, including Crude Reality: Petroleum in World History.
Introduction: The Urgency of Our Relationship with Energy
PART I: Energy Exchange in the Biological Old Regime (before 1400)
1. Energy in the Human Past
Transitioning by the Numbers: Biological Old Regime
PART II: Industrialization and the Great Reversal (1400–1920)
2. Colonialism, Mercantilism, and Empire
Transitioning by the Numbers: Industrialization
3. Fossil Fuels and the Transformation of Human Work
4. Energizing Everyday Human Life
PART III: Energy Broadens the Gap (1900–2000)
5. Energy and National Security
6. Energy Technology and Empire in the Cold War Era
Transitioning by the Numbers: High-Energy Existence
7. The Energy Gap Takes Shape
PART IV: Integrating Sustainability (2000–2022)
Transitioning by the Numbers: Considering Sustainable Energy
8. Energy Transitions and the Culture of Sustainability
Epilogue: Divining Our Energy Future: Game Over or Game On?
[Reviews for his last book, Crude Reality:
This engaging and thought-provoking book directs readers’ attention to the vital role that
petroleum occupies in today’s global economy and geopolitical arena. Brian C. Black has done
a masterful job of explaining a complex topic. . . . His conclusions are hard to ignore; the
global society depends on fossil fuels at a time when the world’s peak production of petroleum
has likely already occurred. . . . Essential.” —Choice
“Stands out . . . for Black’s skillful incorporation of environmental and cultural history into
the more standard narratives focusing on the geopolitics of state and corporate development
of global oil resources. . . . Black also makes an important and highly original . . . contribution
by analyzing oil itself as a ‘critical actor, capable of shaping an entire way of life.’ . . . Regardless
of precisely how much oil may be left, though, Black’s insightful book demonstrates that other
‘crude realities’ like environmental damage and global warming will likely favor those nations
that move beyond oil and pioneer the cleaner alternative energy technologies of the future.”
—Journal of World History
“Black . . . has made a most valuable contribution with this long history of oil from the
classical world until today. The work is informative and useful, with a quantity of details
rarely to be found in a single work. . . . The book is well written and always clear and easy to
understand. It [makes] for worthwhile, fruitful reading enriched by many good photos.”
—Global Environmental Politics
“Not since Daniel Yergin’s book, The Prize, has there been a synthetic account that grapples so
thoroughly with the transformative effect of oil in world history. . . . Black . . . [provides] a . . . more
condensed and readable account with a bolder and clearer analytical framework that offers an
accessible entrée to the subject for non-experts of energy history and for scholars alike. . . . Black
crosses national borders and moves swiftly over 250 years of industry development to present
a story in which oil stars initially as ‘black goo’ but transforms over time with the aid of human
accomplices into a powerful actor that drastically alters the world’s climate.”
Humans cannot survive without extracting energy from the environment. Black accompanies readers on a four-part journey that identifies and describes the physical and social processes connected with exploiting various resource types in the succession of energy exchange economies of societies past and present…. Black's accessible narrative clearly explains the engineering and societal entailments of each scenario. As Black tells it, the greatest social and physical transformations occurred with the uptake of coal and oil. Black poses an inconvenient question with regard to the future: "Game over or game on?" is this author's way of "divining our energy future" in an epilogue that begins "Our earthly disaster unfolds in real time, attacking our planet's infrastructure often out of human sight or perception" (p. 273). Comparing today's atmospheric CO2 levels with Pleistocene levels (revealed by ice core sampling data), Black envisions a new stage of industrialization to enable a sustainable energy exchange regime capable of supporting continued human existence on planet Earth. Highly recommended. All readers.
In contrast to popular usage, history is not just about the past. Learning how the world got to be the way it is and the forces that govern its evolution, is essential to understanding the present and preparing to face the future. Brian Black has the rare ability to synthesize masses of information and craft narratives that are accessible to popular audiences without sacrificing analytical rigor. His latest work is a wide-ranging and informative account of the role of energy in modern history. Focusing on how societies have produced and consumed energy in the past, he provides new perspectives on the present and illuminates the possibilities of charting a more equitable and sustainable path for the future.
No one knows more about the history of energy use than Brian C. Black. In this sweeping narrative, he argues with skill and insight that energy stands at the core of the entire human experience, from an ‘old biological regime’ to modern fossil fuel dependency. As we go through a major transition in our sources of energy, we need informed guides to where we have been—and there is none better than this author and his work
To Have and Have Not is a sane, no-nonsense guide to humanity's endless quest for the energy without which we could not survive. If you want to understand the history of this search—and, even more important, where it is taking us—this is an excellent place to start.
For book buyers, view the updated figure 1.1 from page 18 of the printed book To Have and Have Not: Energy in World History by Brian C. Black at the addendum here.