Extractive Economies

History 390S-02

“There are silver and gold in the mountains and ravines of California [,]” William H. Seward declared in March 1850 as he exhorted fellow senators to ratify the giant new military colony’s statehood. “The granite of New England and New York is barren.” A master orator, the future Vice President of the United States thus invoked in consecutive sentences twinned anxieties intrinsic to natural resource extraction: the promise of abundance, and the threat of depletion. Over the subsequent decades, countless politicians, policymakers, and entrepreneurs would follow Seward’s lead, with profound implications for societies all over the world.

Extractive Economies analyzes the development of extractive industry around the globe from prehistory to the present, providing wide-ranging historical overviews of the large-scale recovery of five categories of natural resources: 1) biotics (e.g., timber, fish, fur); 2) rocks and minerals (metal ore, dimension stone, salt); 3) gems and precious metals (diamond, amber, gold); 4) radioactive and rare-earth elements (uranium, scandium, cerium), as well as; 5) fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas). Additionally, it also examines in greater depth two related themes: 1) the economics of Dutch disease, or stunted industrialization due to rapid growth in extractive operations, and; the political economy of harmful environmental externalities associated with such operations, with a particular focus on fossil fuels.

Curriculum Codes: 


Theme (Concentration)

Economic and Business Cultures, Medicine, Science and Technology


Global and Comparative