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. Download and start listening now!