Skip to main content
Back to Results
Cover image of Coal and Empire
Cover image of Coal and Empire
Share this Title:

Coal and Empire

The Birth of Energy Security in Industrial America

Peter A. Shulman

Publication Date
Binding Type
Request Exam CopyRequest Review Copy

The fascinating history of how coal-based energy became entangled with American security.

Since the early twentieth century, Americans have associated oil with national security. From World War I to American involvement in the Middle East, this connection has seemed a self-evident truth. But, as Peter A. Shulman argues, Americans had to learn to think about the geopolitics of energy in terms of security, and they did so beginning in the nineteenth century: the age of coal. Coal and Empire insightfully weaves together pivotal moments in the history of science and technology by linking coal and…

The fascinating history of how coal-based energy became entangled with American security.

Since the early twentieth century, Americans have associated oil with national security. From World War I to American involvement in the Middle East, this connection has seemed a self-evident truth. But, as Peter A. Shulman argues, Americans had to learn to think about the geopolitics of energy in terms of security, and they did so beginning in the nineteenth century: the age of coal. Coal and Empire insightfully weaves together pivotal moments in the history of science and technology by linking coal and steam to the realms of foreign relations, navy logistics, and American politics. Long before oil, coal allowed Americans to rethink the place of the United States in the world.

Shulman explores how the development of coal-fired oceangoing steam power in the 1840s created new questions, opportunities, and problems for U.S. foreign relations and naval strategy. The search for coal, for example, helped take Commodore Matthew Perry to Japan in the 1850s. It facilitated Abraham Lincoln's pursuit of black colonization in 1860s Panama. After the Civil War, it led Americans to debate whether a need for coaling stations required the construction of a global empire. Until 1898, however, Americans preferred to answer the questions posed by coal with new technologies rather than new territories. Afterward, the establishment of America's string of island outposts created an entirely different demand for coal to secure the country's new colonial borders, a process that paved the way for how Americans incorporated oil into their strategic thought.

By exploring how the security dimensions of energy were not intrinsically linked to a particular source of power but rather to political choices about America's role in the world, Shulman ultimately suggests that contemporary global struggles over energy will never disappear, even if oil is someday displaced by alternative sources of power.

Reviews

Reviews

Enlightening reading for anyone interested in the politics and economics of energy.

Exciting to read. It is the product of someone who is such a gifted writer.

Peter Shulman’s excellent new book mines the pre-history of the relationship between ideas about energy extraction and the building of the United States as an imperial nation.

A major contribution to foreign policy history and an essential read for any scholar interested in the development of policy and technology during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

In his exhaustively researched book, Shulman convincingly argues for the centrality of coal to nineteenth-century American domestic and foreign policy. His fast paced and wide-ranging work recounts a number of fascinating episodes central to nineteenth-century American history through the lens of energy needs.

See All Reviews
About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
336
ISBN
9781421436364
Illustration Description
10 halftones
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. Empire and the Politics of Information
2. Engineering Economy
3. The Economy of Time and Space
4. The Slavery Solution
5. The Debate over Coaling Station
6. Inventing

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. Empire and the Politics of Information
2. Engineering Economy
3. The Economy of Time and Space
4. The Slavery Solution
5. The Debate over Coaling Station
6. Inventing Logistics
Conclusion
Chronological Listing of Cited Congressional Publicationsfrom the United States Serial Set
Notes
Bibliographic Essay
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Peter A. Shulman

Peter A. Shulman is an associate professor and the director of undergraduate studies for the Department of History at Case Western Reserve University.