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Economic History Society conference session on Energy, History & Policy

When Apr 03, 2016
Where Robinson College, Cambridge
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Economic History Society conference at 9.30am on Sunday 3rd April.

This comprises: 

IVG:   History & Policy Session: Energy, Trade and Efficiency (chair:Paul Warde) (Auditorium Lounge)


East versus West: Energy transition and energy intensity in coal-rich Europe, 1830-2000 Hana Nielsen (Lund University)


Energy efficiency and the productivity race in industry, 1870-1935 Sofia Teives Henriques (Lund University)


International trade and the energy intensity in Europe, 1870-1935 Paul Warde (University of Cambridge) & Astrid Kander (Lund University)


Trade and overcoming land constraints in the British Industrial Revolution: the role of coal and cotton revisited Dimitrios Theodoridis (Gothenburg University)


The papers are all downloadable and the conference website can be found at


The focus is primarily on the period 1850-1935, but the papers raise issues of more general interest. Nielsen's paper shows how relative energy inefficiency was not a general characteristic of eastern bloc production under communism, but in the Czech Republic, related to very specific sectors, especially electricity generation. Henriques is developing a method to look at the relationship between energy intensity and labour productivity over time for particular goods. Warde and Kander demonstrate that when embodied energy in trading goods is taken into account, the development of energy intensity in Europe (especially the UK and Germany) looks rather different from that traditionally thought, and by decomposing this into specific sectors, show how this story was strongly shaped by particular goods (especially those going into capital formation elsewhere). It turns out then that early industrialisers bore the external costs for the industrialisation of their trading partners, although as an ethical issue the legacy of earlier carbon emissions is usually seen as a largely endogenous phenomenon. Finally, Theodoridis's paper provides the first really detailed accounting of the 'ghost acres' imported by Britain during the Industrial Revolution, and the flow of energy or 'land equivalents' in exports, which provides a startling new balance to impressions of the flow of resources at this time, but also illustrates the enormous rise in dependency on land resources that came about with modern economic growth.


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