Materials with high surface areas and small particle size (nanophases), metastable polymorphs, and hydrated oxides are increasingly important in both materials and environmental science. Using modifications of oxide melt solution calorimetry, we have developed techniques to study the energetics of such oxides and oxyhydroxides, and to separate the effects of polymorphism, chemical variation, high surface area, and hydration. Several generalizations begin to emerge from these studies. The energy differences among different polymorphs (e.g., various zeolite frameworks, the - and -alumina polymorphs, manganese and iron oxides and oxyhydroxides) tend to be small, often barely more than thermal energy under conditions of synthesis. Much larger contributions to the energetics come from oxidation-reduction reactions and charge-coupled substitutions involving the ions of basic oxides (e.g., K and Ba). The thermodynamics of hydration involve closely balanced negative enthalpies and negative entropies and are very dependent on the particular framework and cage or tunnel geometry.