Download Coal: A Human History by Barbara Freese PDF

By Barbara Freese

Prized as "the top stone in Britain" by means of Roman invaders who carved jewellery out of it, coal has reworked societies, powered navies, fueled economies, and extended frontiers. It made China a twelfth-century superpower, encouraged the writing of the Communist Manifesto, and helped the northern states win the yankee Civil warfare. but the mundane mineral that equipped our international financial system -and even this present day powers our electric plants-has additionally prompted dying, disorder, and environmental destruction. As early as 1306, King Edward i attempted to prohibit coal (unsuccessfully) simply because its smoke turned so obnoxious. Its contemporary id as a prime reason for international warming has made it a reason célèbre of a brand new kind.In this impressive e-book, Barbara Freese takes us on a wealthy historic 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 an enthralling narrative approximately a standard substance that has performed amazing things-a easy black rock which can good be certain our destiny as a species.

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Sample text

Fire damp is mostly methane, also formed by decaying vegetable matter. The main component of natural gas, methane is commonly known as marsh gas, and is itself a potent greenhouse gas. Fire damp would seep from the coal seams, or sometimes come hissing out 50 COAL quickly from a fissure in the seam. Lighter than air, fire damp would build up along the mine ceiling. * If there was only a small accumulation of fire damp, the bearer of the flame might merely be knocked flat and singed. If the build-up was large, the results were catastrophic for everyone in the mine.

At the beginning of the Carboniferous, tiny newt-sized creatures not far evolved from fish slithered through the wet undergrowth; by the end of it, massive, fifteen-foot-long monsters were dragging their bellies through the primeval mud. We know this because they left both footprints and belly-prints. It was also during this lush time among the Carboniferous trees that some amphibians took the 20 COAL momentous step of forming hard-shelled eggs, thereby evolving into reptiles, from which would later evolve dinosaurs, birds, and mammals.

Clothing, too, suffered from coal smoke and soot, requiring frequent cleaning. This not only compounded the already considerable hygiene problems of the city but further increased the distinction between the rich and the not-so-rich. Nourse was particularly concerned over the plight of people of rank but not of fortune because they were going broke trying to wash away the smells and stains of the polluted city air. ” It was particularly a problem to be caught in the rain, which washed the soot out of the air and left black spots on whatever it THE BEST STONE IN BRITAIN 37 touched.

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