Faculty bio-Joseph Bohling



Joseph Bohling

Assistant Professor
Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley (2012)

Contact Info:
Cramer Hall 441
jbohling @ pdx.edu

Link to office hours


Fields of Expertise:
Modern France and Europe
The History of Capitalism; International Political Economy; Food and Energy Regimes

Current Project:
Bohling’s current book project is Power to the Republic: The Crisis of Fossil Capitalism in Modern France. This book tells the story of how France became a fossil fuel nation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—despite being poorer in coal and oil than most other industrialized countries. Recent scholarly work has underscored the centrality of the fossil fuel transition to the making of the modern capitalist world system. Understandably, this work has tended to focus on Great Britain and the United States, two countries that had the greatest success in achieving world domination and that controlled and consumed the largest share of the world’s fossil fuel stock. Yet much less has been written about France, which was able to achieve a similarly high standard of living and a stronger carbon emissions record with conditional supplies of fossil fuels.

The adoption of fossil fuels in France was highly contingent and contested, as a range of interests stood to gain or lose from changes in the energy system. While some groups struggled to construct an international fossil fuel infrastructure in the name of economic growth, other groups advocated alternatives like wood, water power, biofuels, and nuclear power, claiming that fossil fuels threatened state sovereignty, democracy, and the environment, and put national security in great peril. France was the world’s largest importer of coal, much of which came from rival neighbors like Germany; some of its natural gas came from potentially hostile trading partners like Algeria and the USSR; and its oil came almost entirely from the Middle East and Africa, regions known for their resistance to Western intervention.

Power to the Republic seeks to illuminate how a country that faced near-constant energy insecurity developed unique energy policies that sought to balance the imperative of economic growth with concerns about national sovereignty, democracy, and environmental protection. Bohling’s project makes a case for restoring conflict to our understanding of the transition to fossil fuels to help politicize their current hegemony in a world of heated debate about climate change.  

Recent Publications:
The Sober Revolution: Appellation Wine and the Transformation of France (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2018).

"The Oil from Our Soil: French Alcohol Fuel versus Foreign Oil, 1918-1957," forthcoming.

“Colonial or Continental Power? The Debate over Economic Expansion in Interwar France, 1925-1932,” Contemporary European History 26.2 (May 2017): 217-41.

“The Mendès France Milk Regime: Alcoholism as a Problem of Agricultural Subsidies, 1954-1955,” French Politics, Culture, and Society 32.3 (Winter 2014): 97-120.

“ ‘Drink Better, But Less’: The Rise of France’s Appellation Wine System in the European Community, 1946-1976,” French Historical Studies 37.3 (Summer 2014): 501-30.

Bohling's shorter essays and reviews may be found in AddictionsAsian Review of World HistoriesEnterprise and SocietyFood and FoodwaysFrench Politics, Culture, and SocietyH-France; History: Reviews of New BooksPortland Monthly; and The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs

Courses taught:

  • HST 300, Historical Imagination
  • HST 358U, Europe from National Unification to European Union
  • HST 361, France and the World since 1815
  • HST 370, Eurotopia: Creating and Contesting the European Union
  • HST 390, Topics in World History: Energy Crises and Transitions
  • HST 490/590: Comparative World History: Capitalism
  • HST 491/591, Readings in World History: World of Commodities
  • HST 492/592, Seminar in World History: World of Commodities