When the Lights Went Out : A History of Blackouts in America

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2010-03-31
  • Publisher: Mit Pr
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Winning entry, General Trade Cover/Jacket Category, in the 2010 New England Book Show sponsored by Bookbuilders of Boston. Where were you when the lights went out? At home during a thunderstorm? Preparing for an air attack during World War II? During the Great Northeastern Blackout of 1965? In New York City during a similar but more frightening blackout in 1977? In California when rolling blackouts hit in 2000? In 2003, when a cascading power failure left fifty million people without electricity? We often remember vividly our time in the dark. In When the Lights Went Out, David Nye views power outages in America from 1935 to the present not simply as technical failures but variously as military tactic, social disruption, crisis in the networked city, outcome of political and economic decisions, sudden encounter with sublimity, and memories enshrined in photographs. Our electrically lit-up life is so natural to us that when the lights go off, the darkness seems abnormal. Nye looks at America's development of its electrical grid, which made large-scale power failures possible; military blackouts before and during World War II ("The silence was the big surprise of the blackout, the darkness discounted," wrote Harold Ross in The New Yorkerin 1942); New York City's contrasting 1965 and 1977 blackout experiences (the first characterized by cooperation, the second by looting and disorder); the growth in consumer demand that led to rolling blackouts made worse by energy traders' market manipulations; blackouts caused by terrorist attacks and sabotage; and, finally, the "greenout" (exemplified by the new tradition of "Earth Hour"), a voluntary reduction organized by environmental organizations. Blackouts, writes Nye, are breaks in the flow of social time that reveal much about the trajectory of American history. Each time one occurs, Americans confront their essential condition-not as isolated individuals, but as a community that increasingly binds itself together with electrical wires and signals.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
Gridp. 9
Warp. 37
Accidentp. 67
Crisisp. 105
Rolling Blackoutsp. 137
Terrorp. 173
Greenout?p. 205
Notesp. 233
Bibliographyp. 269
Indexp. 285
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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