German Vergara

Assistant Professor

Member Of:
  • School of History and Sociology
Fax Number:
Office Location:
Old CE Building G20
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Germán Vergara (Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley) specializes in Latin American and environmental history. Working within a global perspective, his research and teaching explore the role of the environment, animals, energy regimes, intellectual traditions, and industrial capitalism in Latin American history.

His book manuscript, titled Fueling Mexico: Energy, Environment, and the Transition to a Fossil-Fueled Society, 1850-1950, examines how and why modern Mexico transitioned from an agrarian society powered by animal muscle, water, and wood to an industrial society based on fossil fuels. The study traces the ways in which scientists, industrialists, state officials, and ecology shaped Mexico’s energy transition to fossil fuels. The study suggests that successive Mexican governments and scientific and industrial elites adopted fossil fuels in response to the limits of wood-and-water based industrialization, the predominant manufacturing model of the late nineteenth century. Such limits took the form of deforestation, energy scarcity, and social conflicts. The study also claims that the modern environmental history of Mexico cannot be understood without considering this transition to fossil fuels: it not only gave people an unprecedented capacity to transform the nation’s environment, but it also initiated a century of dependence on fossil fuels. Ultimately, this is a story of restraints on industrial growth, people refusing to accept them, and the environmental and social consequences of their refusal, intended or not. The project is the first study to look at the historical roots of today’s global fossil-fuel energy regime from a Latin American perspective.

Germán's first book project examines the transition to fossil fueled-industrialization, one of the key drivers of environmental change in modern Latin America; his second book project will focus on the region's biodiversity crisis, one of its cognate developments. The study offers an environmental history of species extinctions in Latin America since 1800. Recent estimates suggest that 41 percent of described amphibians, 26 percent of mammals, and 13 percent of birds currently face the threat of extinction worldwide. As one of the global centers of biodiversity, Latin America is at the heart of the current extinction crisis. The project will focus on the intersection between fossil-fueled industrialization–a process that gave humans an unprecedented capacity to change the environment–environmental politics, animal-human relations, and species loss throughout nineteenth and twentieth-century Latin America.

Germán has published on energy history and has forthcoming articles on the environmental history of industrialization and animal history in Mexico and Latin America with Mexican Studies and the Oxford Encyclopedia of Latin American History. His article "How Coal Kept My Valley Green: Forest Conservation, State Intervention, and the Transition to Fossil Fuels in Mexico" was recently published in Environmental History

After earning his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, Germán spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow in environmental history at Brown University. He has received fellowships from The University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States (UC MEXUS), the Charles A. Hale Fellowship for Mexican History from the Latin American Studies Association, and the USMEX Fellowship Program at the University of California, San Diego.

  • Ph.D. in History, University of California, Berkeley
  • M.A. in History, University of California, Berkeley
  • B.A. in Anthropology, National School of Anthropology and History (Mexico)
Areas of
  • Agriculture
  • Animal History
  • Cities
  • Energy History
  • Environmental History
  • Food
  • Industrialization
  • Latin America
  • Mexico
Research Fields:
  • Agriculture, Health, and the Environment
  • Energy, Climate and Environmental Policy
  • Global Cities and Urban Society
  • History of Technology/Engineering and Society
  • Modern Global History/Science, Technology, and Nationalism
  • Latin America and Caribbean
  • North America
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • HTS-2823: Special Topics
  • HTS-3081: Tech and Environment
  • HTS-6116: Environmental History
Selected Publications

Journal Articles