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, launched empires, and expanded frontiers. It made China an eleventh-century superpower, inspired the Communist Manifesto, and helped the North win the American Civil War. Yet coal's transformative power has come at tremendous cost, from the blackening of our lungs and skies, to the perils of mining, to global warming.
Now updated with a new chapter describing the high-stakes conflict between coal's defenders and those working to preserve a livable climate, Coal: A Human History offers a captivating history of the mineral that helped build the modern world but now endangers our future.
Barbara Freese was Assistant District Attorney in Michigan, one of America's biggest coal producing states, for 12 years and is an expert on air pollution laws. Coal is her first book. She lives in St. Paul, Michigan with her husband and two children.
"Elegant and engaging [...] No subject is more important for understanding the recent past and preparing for the future."
– Sunday Times
"Engaging and interesting, tightly documented and consistently readable. Freese makes a pasionate plea for a more considered way of treating the earth, its rescources and inhabitants."
– Daily Telegraph
"The incredible story of Britain's black gold."
– Daily Mail
"Fascinating [...] It lingers hauntingly in the mind."
– New Statesman
"I can think of no substance that has played so important a role in shaping the relative fortunes of competing economies."
– David Landes, Author of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations