History of Energy

This course will equip you with in-depth knowledge of the ways in which the access to energy carriers has been politicized by nation-states and other large corporate actors in the global arena, and with what consequences for international relations. We will explore this theme from timber and coal in the pre-industrial era, to the Arctic shale gas and minerals in space today. We will take a look at the critical junctures between international security, conflict, war, power politics and technology, in a historical and analytical light. We begin with the recognition that energy has long been a major determinant of the balance of power in the international system for at least a few centuries, and that every major change in global energy consumption and production technologies has catalyzed major geopolitical shifts, with no region of the world being exempt from this fundamental relationship.

We will take a closer look at how states design long-term strategies to satisfy their energy demands, as well as at what their actions imply for other players on the global scene. The course will eventually touch upon contemporary issues ranging from the energiewende, shale gas exploration, natural resource extraction in (almost) inaccessible environments (the Arctic, deep Ocean floors, space), pipeline politics, nuclear power anxiety, pollution caps, CO2 trading quotas, liquefied gas transportation, and many other topics at the very top of today’s agenda. The course will also take a look at recent technological innovations, such as electric cars or the increasing reliability of wind and solar power, and will trace how they are changing global trade dependencies and logistical routes. We will try to imagine how these innovations could shape new alliances and exacerbate existing conflicts. Finally, we will consider whether the shift away from oil-based-economies is really a thing, and if yes – we will try to anticipate how a hypothetical new energy order could alter the global geopolitical landscape in the twenty-first century.

Tomasz Blusiewicz:

Tomasz Blusiewicz is a historian of international relations, who focuses on economic cooperation in Eurasia in the second half of the 20th century. Tomasz’s doctoral thesis, defended at Harvard in 2017, is entitled Return of the Hanseatic League or how the Baltic Sea Trade Washed Away the Iron Curtain, 1945-1991. In it, he develops a transnational perspective on the Baltic region, from Hamburg in the West to Leningrad in the East, and highlights the role played by Hanseatic port cities such as Rostock, Gdańsk, Kaliningrad or Riga, all of which served as "windows to the world" linking communist-controlled Europe with the globalizing world. Tomasz’s collegiate alma mater is the University of Chicago, from which he graduated in 2011 with a double BA in history and philosophy.