History and Science of Oil


Fall Semesters

This course provides broad historical perspective on the business, science, geology, technology, politics, environment, and culture of the global oil industry. As part of the University of Iowa’s “Big Ideas” curriculum, this course asks students to contemplate the big questions surrounding the origins, development, and meaning of the “Age of Petroleum,” an age in which we continue to live.   How and why did oil become the most powerful international business of the last 150 years? What were the factors behind oil’s emergence as the world’s main transportation fuel, a chief source of heat and electricity, and the building block for a proliferating array of consumer goods? How and why did struggles over oil become central to world politics and shape the rise and fall of nations? How do we wrestle with the trade-offs between the unprecedented wealth and prosperity generated by oil development and the social, economic, and environmental costs that have come with it? How has the search for oil fostered human awareness of both Earth’s deep history and the fragility of ecosystems on which we depend?

Syllabus Fall 2017

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