Download Coal: A Human History by Barbara Freese PDF

By Barbara Freese

Prized as "the top stone in Britain" via Roman invaders who carved jewellery out of it, coal has reworked societies, powered navies, fueled economies, and increased frontiers. It made China a twelfth-century superpower, encouraged the writing of the Communist Manifesto, and helped the northern states win the yank Civil warfare. but the mundane mineral that outfitted our international economic climate -and even at the present time powers our electric plants-has additionally brought on loss of life, sickness, and environmental destruction. As early as 1306, King Edward i attempted to prohibit coal (unsuccessfully) simply because its smoke grew to become so obnoxious. Its contemporary identity as a first-rate reason for international warming has made it a reason célèbre of a brand new kind.In this notable ebook, Barbara Freese takes us on a wealthy ancient trip that starts 300 million years in the past 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 poisonous urban streets of Beijing, Coal is a charming narrative approximately a regular substance that has performed awesome things-a uncomplicated black rock which could good verify our destiny as a species.

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In the late 1100s, historians finally find references to coal as a fuel. The English didn’t call it “coal,” though, since that was the name they used for charcoal, a fuel that had by then been used for many centuries. What we call “coal,” the English knew as “sea coal,” a surprising label for such a deeply terrestrial product, and one that stuck until the 1600s. Why they called it sea coal is disputed. Some think it’s because the North Sea actually carved coal from exposed outcrops and yielded it up onto the beaches with the sand, where it was first gathered and used by the locals.

Even today, estimating the effect of coal smoke on public health is difficult. Estimates are largely based on sophisticated analyses of detailed death and illness statistics. Seventeenth century Londoners were a long way from being able to perform such statistical analyses, and yet they were taking important first steps in that direction. As it happened, just as Evelyn was publishing Fumifugium in 1661, a man whom many would later consider the founder of statistics was conducting the first methodical analysis of London’s mortality records.

At the same time, the complaints of the poor were “great and unspeakable,” and many of them reportedly died from lack of fuel. When coal came back to the city, Londoners snapped it up, willing to watch the city’s gardens wither again as long as they could keep their home fires burning. three Launching a Revolution after controlling fire for a few hundred thousand years, our ancestors had devised many clever ways to use its power to transform natural materials into everything from metals, pottery, bricks, and glass to salt, soap, and ale.

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