Coal by Barbara Freese
A Human History

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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.

About Barbara Freese

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Barbara Freese, an assistant attorney general of Minnesota for more than twelve years, helped enforce her state’s air pollution laws and along the way became fascinated by coal.
Published January 1, 2003 by William Heinemann Ltd.. 320 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, History, Nature & Wildlife, War, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, Education & Reference, Sports & Outdoors. Non-fiction

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Freese’s writing is a bit like coal—smooth and glinting, burning with a steady warmth—though with none of its downsides, for coal also contributed to miserable air quality, black-lung disease, scarred landscapes, and outrageous working conditions, along with “social and economic policies that tol...

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Publishers Weekly

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Freese narrates the discovery of coal in the colonies, the development of the first U.S. coal town, Pittsburgh, and the history of coal in China.

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Star Tribune

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Coal taken from a mine could be burned in a steam engine to pump water out of the mine tunnels so workers could reach more coal.

Feb 01 2003 | Read Full Review of Coal: A Human History

London Review of Books

3 · 3 February 2005 From Bernard Liengme Tim Flannery says that carbon dioxide gas is ‘three times as voluminous as the coal burned’ (LRB, 6 January).

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Project MUSE

Focusing on the history of coal in China during the second half of the twentieth century, she covers the turmoil of the Mao Zedong era before providing an overview of recent developments, including the rapid construction of coal-fired power plants, the air pollution that coal has created in much ...

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