The topic of energy is of central interest today. Although a long-term view can be useful in order to clarify contemporary trends and future perspectives, scholarly literature provides little information on the consumption of energy sources by past societies, before the beginning of the 20th century. In the following analysis, the topic of energy will be discussed from the viewpoint of economics, with a long-term historical perspective. After a brief introduction in Sects. 1.1 and 1.2 will examine some definitions and concepts, useful when dealing with energy and the role of energy within the economy. Section 1.3 will focus on the relationship between humans and energy in pre-modern societies. Section 1.4 will discuss the energy transition, that is changes in energy and environment from the early modern age to the present day. In the Conclusion (Sect. 1.5) general estimates will be proposed of past energy consumption on the whole.
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