Powering empire: How coal made the middle east and sparked global carbonization

On Barak*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


"Global decarbonization is humanity's most pressing challenge. Powering Empire offers the first historical roadmap charting how the world was carbonized. It also jettisons some misleading yet prevalent myths and clears impediments to this task. One is the naïve assumption that we are currently living in the age of oil, or even post-oil, and that coal fumes are a thing of the past. Quite the reverse! This is still the age of coal and much of what we associate with oil rests upon the foundations of coal. We must also overturn the conjecture that global carbonization started in Western Europe and then spread to the rest of the world. Settings like the Ottoman Empire were early arenas for testing and adopting coal and steamships. The steamer-friendly corridors running between Europe and Asia--which would become the "Middle East"--stimulated British industrialization and imperial expansion simultaneously. Finally, we must resist the control of energy on all things fossil: the globalization of the hydrocarbon economy cannot be reduced to considerations of fueling alone. Coal depots were also created as a pretext for imperial land grab, out of concerns about ballasting, and stemmed from aspects of coal that had little to do with its combustion. This book, therefore, reveals a thickening carbon-intensive entanglement of energy and empire, of Western and non-Western powers, thereby excavating unfamiliar resources--from Islamic risk-aversion, through Ottoman attitudes to the underground, to Gandhian vegetarianism--for a climate justice that relies on a more diverse ethical repertoire"--
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOakland, California
PublisherUniversity of California Press
Number of pages321
ISBN (Electronic)0520310721, 0520339673, 0520973933, 9780520339675, 9780520973930
ISBN (Print)9780520310728
StatePublished - 2020

ULI Keywords

  • uli
  • Coal trade -- Political aspects
  • Coal trade -- Middle East -- History


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