This stimulating, informative and at times frightening book provides an overall history of energy usage as a fundamental factor in the evolution of the world's major civilizations, from pre-history to the present day. It serves as a history of human impact on the biosphere and the consequences of this for the rise and fall of civilizations. The authors look in detail at how different forms of energy use have shaped society in the earliest civilizations - Egypt, Mesopotamia and India - as well as in Ancient Greece and Rome, Imperial China, Medieval Europe, and during the industrial revolution. They go on to cover the rise of the internal combustion engine, electrification, oil, nuclear power, and contemporary ecological problems. They show how all societies are dependent on fragile and unstable energy systems that combine particular technical knowledge, conceptions of nature, and relations of power. When this system reaches its limits, a major crisis is inevitable. Our own world is entering such a crisis as we exhaust our non-renewable resources and confront the consequences of global warming. And the Third World and Eastern Europe face even worse dilemmas. As for nuclear energy, the authors show it to be an economically unviable attempt to shore up an outworn system. They ask whether there is any technical way of overcoming these limits other than an overall change in the way our society functions. In the Servitude of Poweris an authoritative and comprehensive guide to what promises to be the end of an era.
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Jean-Claude Debeir and Daniel Hemery are historians, Jean-Paul Deleage a physicist. They teach at the University of Paris.Language Notes:
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French
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