Sun, January 10, 2021

UAF Course: North American Energy History

The History Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is pleased to announce a new course titled North American Energy History being taught this Spring 2021 semester by Dr. Philip Wight. They are looking for students to join the course in these last final days of class registration before the new semester starts.

North American Energy History is an upper-level history course that examines how energy resources, regimes, and transitions have fueled human history. Over the course of millennia, humans have utilized traditional knowledge, science, and technology to discover and harness new energy sources—from the organic sources of flesh, timber, wind, and water, to a mineral energy revolution with the combustion of peat, coal, oil, and natural gas. In this class, we will ask the big questions that have defined our past: How have American and Canadian energy systems evolved over time, and why? In what ways did the struggle to control and deploy energy shape North American politics, culture, and economic development? What have been the impacts of energy transitions on social and environmental change? How did these energy regimes shape the far north? In these explorations, we will highlight the tensions, ironies, and paradoxes of these energies. With each energy transition, humanity liberated itself from one limiting energy resource, only to create new dependencies and unforeseen problems. All new energies at first appeared utopian, but inevitably wrought their own costs and consequences. Only by reckoning with these complex histories can we understand our current energy crises and forge a sustainable path forward.

Dr. Philip Wight is an Assistant Professor of History and the Arctic and Northern Studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He studies histories of energy and the environment, with a focus on infrastructure, transportation, and science and technology. His forthcoming book, “Arctic Artery: The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System and the World It Made”, examines the long history of Alaska’s most important energy infrastructure.

If you have any questions about the course, contact Philip Wight at and if you’d like help registering for the class contact the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) comprehensive advisor, Kathy Nava. She can be reached phone (907) 474-6542 and by email You can also sign up for an online appointment here:

CLA recently put together a video trailer about the new class that can be viewed at the following: Facebook:  YouTube: