Final activity: “Solar energy technologies: unity and disunity of loose European memories”. European Society for the History of Science Biennial Conference 2018, 14-17 September, London, UK.

Since at least the 1970s, after the first oil embargo, some historians focused on energy. After this, scholarship on energy studies has developed and matured through analyses ranging from fine-grained studies of specific energy sources and technologies to ambitious broad surveys of energy across history, for example, Vaclav Smil, Energy in
World History (1994). This historical interest at least in part reflects current concerns about oil supplies, nuclear uncertainties, environmental pollution, geopolitics, global climate change, and other energy-related issues. Energy vitally determines the quotidian choices of households, businesses, and countries. The rise of interest in energy stories is a very interesting phenomenon that attracted historians from different fields as economics, environment, science, and technology.

Nevertheless, the most relevant source of energy for life on the earth planet, Solar Energy, has not attrack enough attention. In some periods, the uses of solar energy seems to be discarded. In other circumstances, solar energy recuperate the attention, but usually for a short time. Archives in several European countries, USA and Latin America contains memories about the research and development of Solar Energy Technologies.

Exploration of thermosolar and photovoltaics between XIX and XX centuries open a discussion about the technological fix and the problem of technocracy. Those loose memories of Unity and Disunity remain fragmented and require a kind of narrative against silence and oblivion. We need to go in-depth with biographies, events, social structures, experimentations, and larges organizations, some of them active from the XIX century. We hope to contribute with an interdisciplinary approach to a build narratives of the non-linear co-evolution of Technology and their eventual impact on sustainability, and then to strengthen a position that demonstrates that the environmental questions are not exclusively a scientific, technological or social matter, instead of an entangled problem of the great acceleration era. This symposium proposes a critical vision trying to join scientific, technological, environmental, economic, and political history and/or some of them with a dialogue between humanities, social science, and arts. These relationships allow us to understand viable alternatives to technologies, their energy source, and their path.

George Basalla’s theoretical model for understanding how technology evolves explains that there is a selection process between continuity and innovation, while David Edgerton’s vision about innovation contributes arguing, among others, that the winning technology selected is not always the most economical, and many times Creole Technology is the core of the relationship between innovation and tradition. This panel seeks to stimulate discussion about energy and civilization, the same title for Basalla’s paper in 1981 and the Vaclav Smil’s book in 2017, hoping this will be a proper way to think about the challenges to sustainability focusing on the cultural, political,
economic, geographical, and environmental dimensions from a transboundary perspective for re-unified some disunities.

Speaker 32/1 Arellano-Escudero, Nelson

Speaker 32/2 Roca-Rosell, Antoni

Speaker 32/3 Bouvier, Yves

Speaker 32/4 Cardoso de Matos, Ana

Further information:


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