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Coal: A Human History by Barbara Freese
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Coal: A Human History (2003)

by Barbara Freese

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I love books that describe how a single commodity slots into and shapes human history; this book is a fabulous example of the genre. There is ample biology, geology and politics to keep the reader fascinated. A stunning read! ( )
  martensgirl | Sep 18, 2013 |
This book is both interesting and heartbreaking. It's also a high-flying overview, covering thousands of years in about three hundred pages. I think that's just right for me- I don't know that I could have taken too much more about the Victorians dying from "fog" or the little kids with rickets or... well, any of it. Including the modern coal industry spin doctors who are the same soulless bastards they've always been. Coal dust is GOOD for children to breathe, they said back then. Greenhouse gases are GOOD for farmers, they say now. *shudder*

Well worth reading. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
Pretty interesting micro-history about coal and how it influenced (and continues to influence) history. Not as good as some other microhistories (Salt and Cod leap to mind) but still an educational and interesting read. ( )
  jlparent | Jul 6, 2011 |
A well-edited presentation of the relationship between humankind and coal. While forthright about her specific interest in coal's environmental ramifications, the author maintains an enlightening treatment of coal's important (and perhaps forgotten) position in the development of human social and institutional civilization. You come away with a respect for coal and the people who work it. Coal alone didn't usher in the world as we understand it; but without coal, little of what we take for granted would be recognizable.

I appreciate the optimistic tone with which Ms. Freese addresses global climate change - an opportunity for humankind to surmount yet another challenge, with our ingenuity and understanding of our interconnectedness. In the future, perhaps folks will look with interest at our lengthy affair with coal and wonder. ( )
  Wordherd | Jan 6, 2010 |
Holy cow. Coal is grosser than I thought. This little book certainly didn't cover everything, but I learned quite a bit.
  KaterinaBead | Jul 21, 2009 |
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In the summer of 1306, bishops and barons and knights from all around England left their country manors and villages and journeyed to London.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142000981, Paperback)

In this remarkable book, Barbara Freese takes us on a rich historical journey that begins hundreds of millions of years ago and spans the globe. Prized as “the best stone in Britain” by Roman invaders who carved jewelry out of it, coal has transformed societies, expanded frontiers, and sparked social movements, and still powers our electric grid. Yet coal’s world-changing power has come at a tremendous price, including centuries of blackening our skies and lungs—and now the dangerous warming of our global climate. Ranging from the “great stinking fogs” of London to the rat-infested coal mines of Pennsylvania, from the impoverished slums of Manchester to the toxic streets of Beijing, Coal is a captivating narrative about an ordinary substance with an extraordinary impact on human civilization.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:59 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The fascinating and surprising story of how coal has altered the course of history.

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