ANN: Coal-Fired Colonialism? (Zoom Discussion)

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5pm - 6pm (AEST)

Public Zoom Discussion Link:

Symposium Presentations available online:




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Dr Liz Conor

DEPARTMENT of Archaeology and History. La Trobe University





Coal-Fired Colonialism?


Public Zoom Discussion

Led by Professor Pratik Chakrabarti

Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester


Following Virtual Symposium, presentations available at:

By 1865 the economist William Stanley Jevons had already declared coal ‘the factor in everything we do’. The significance of the steam engine as a driver of mobility is often touched upon, yet the pathways created by coal-powered technologies and their critical role in colonial expansion has become a promising field of inquiry. The invention of Watts’ coal-fired steam engine in 1776 and its take up in the 1830s relieved industrial production and associated trade from its dependency on the variable conditions of water-wheel and wind power over the coming decades. Yet in the colonial peripheries timber and whale oil continued to play a significant role in colonial energy regimes. From Britain we see coal-fired industrialization and colonial expansion were intimately entwined histories dramatically accelerating the annexing of foreign lands and extraction of their resources. The use of coal on a commercial scale powered an explosion of growth in manufacturing between 1760 and 1840, and these years coincided with incursion, violence and dispossession on the Australian and other frontiers. A history of the meanings and ideas around energy resources, including timber, and their bearing within colonial expansion is increasingly relevant as current changes to climate bring into focus their legacy in dispossession, sustainability, environmental, and atmospheric histories.


Presenters (presenting virtually):


Keynote: Dr Andreas Malm, Senior Lecturer in Human Ecology, Lund University

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR ON BARAK, Department of Middle Eastern and African History, Tel Aviv University Aviv University

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR LIZ CONOR, Principal Research Fellow, Department of Archaeology and History, La Trobe University

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR NANCY CUSHING, Australian History, School of Humanities and Social Science, The University Of Newcastle

PROFESSOR SUSAN LAWRENCE Industrial Archaeologist with DR PETER DAVIES, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Archaeology and History, La Trobe University.

DR JULIE MCINTYRE, Senior Lecturer, History, University of Newcastle

DR RUTH MORGAN, Senior Research Fellow, History, Australian National University

JOHANNA SIEBERT, MA, Global Political Economy, University of Sussex

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