Coal: A Human History

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Perseus Pub., 2003 - History - 308 pages
3 Reviews
Prized as "the best stone in Britain" by Roman invaders who carved jewelry out of it, coal has transformed societies, powered navies, fueled economies, and expanded frontiers. It made China a twelfth-century superpower, inspired the writing of the Communist Manifesto, and helped the northern states win the American Civil War. Yet the mundane mineral that built our global economy -and even today powers our electrical plants-has also caused death, disease, and environmental destruction. As early as 1306, King Edward I tried to ban coal (unsuccessfully) because its smoke became so obnoxious. Its recent identification as a primary cause of global warming has made it a cause célèbre of a new kind.In this remarkable book, Barbara Freese takes us on a rich historical journey that begins three hundred million years ago and spans the globe. From the "Great Stinking Fogs" of London to the rat-infested coal mines of Pennsylvania, from the impoverished slums of Manchester to the toxic city streets of Beijing, Coal is a captivating narrative about an ordinary substance that has done extraordinary things-a simple black rock that could well determine our fate as a species.

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Coal: a human history

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Coal was used by the ancient Chinese and Romans as a fuel and was also carved into jewelry before it became the impetus behind the forward leap of the Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom ... Read full review

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I think it should have been longer and more extensive on the subject, though it is far more than a pop read already. The book established how important coal is in the development of industry. Does a good job of tracing back its use since Roman times. Focuses on England, the north east United States and China.  

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About the author (2003)

An Assistant Attorney General of Minnesota for more than twelve years, Barbara Freese not only helped enforce her state's environmental laws but also became fascinated by the very substance causing the worst pollution. She lives in St. Paul.

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