Joseph Bohling

Associate Professor

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

Current Project:
Power to the Republic: The Oil Crisis and France's Search for Energy Independence, 1969-1992 examines how the oil crisis forced a rethinking of state power and France’s place in the world. Cheap oil from Algeria and the Middle East had underwritten France’s unprecedented prosperity in the 1960s, but by the end of the decade France’s heavy oil dependency threatened economic growth and state authority. The oil-producing Arab states laid claim to their own oil resources, the European Economic Community pushed France to liberalize its highly protective oil market, and new environmental regulations drove up costs. These three challenges provided an opportunity for a range of interest groups to champion an energy transition that limited fossil fuel use and promoted alternative energies. This transition produced political conflicts over who had the right to shape energy policy in the name of “energy independence.” Tensions mounted between state officials and the state-run and multinational energy companies, the electrical utility (EDF) and the fossil fuel companies, France and the international community, and technocrats and grassroots social and environmental movements. At stake was not only the future of French energy use, but also the scope of the state’s power at a time of crisis for dirigisme and “post”-colonial rule. The outcome of these conflicts was a monumental shift toward nuclear-generated electricity.

Power to the Republic contributes to an emerging historiography on energy transitions in world history, a subject we know very little about in the French context. Most studies of such transitions assume the Anglo-American model of fossil fuels being indispensable to economic growth to be the universal model. Yet the French case demonstrates how countries could limit fossil fuel hegemony and carve out a different path to power as the broader political economy made the tumultuous transition from state to market.


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
  • PhD
    University of California, Berkeley