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Short Synopsis
The fascinating, often surprising story of how a simple black rock has altered the course of history. 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.

Full Synopsis
The fascinating, often surprising story of how a simple black rock has altered the course of history. 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.

"Shelly Frasier reads in an even, unhurried rhythm that captures the authorial personality with its authority, light touch, and humor intact."---AudioFile

"Freese's writing is a bit like coal smooth and glinting, burning with a steady warmth. . . . An intriguing, cautionary tale." ---Kirkus Starred Review

Part history and part environmental argument, "Freese's elegant book teaches an important lesson about the interdependence of humans and their natural environment both for good and ill throughout history." ---Publishers Weekly Starred Review

"Engrossing and sometimes stunning. . . . [A] strongly argued and thoroughly researched book. . . . Coal, to borrow a phrase, is king." ---The New York Times
New York Times Bestseller

Kirkus Review

Publishers Weekly Review

Library Journal Bestseller

Coal

A Human History

Author Barbara Freese

Narrated by Shelly Frasier

Publication date Jun 1, 2003

Running time 8 hrs

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