Coal: A Human History

by Barbara Freese
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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 232

In Coal: A Human History, author Barbara Freese explores the relation between humans and coal from the 14th century to present day. Paritcularly, Freese describes the history of coal in England, North America, and China. Freese's novel demonstrates the broad effects the use of coal has had on human societies from labor, to quality of life, to technological/mechanical/industrial advancement, to human and environmental health. For example, Freese studies how the use of coal greatly increased exploitative labor practices in American and British factories during the industrial revolution while also improving quality of life by providing a source of electricity. In China, Freese examines how coal has been used for thousands of years and how its uses have varied over the centuries. As the author describes coal's history in relation to humans, readers are able to obtain an understanding of how coal has so greatly shaped human history, for the better and for the worse. While many books and other mediums of media are either champions of coal or completely denounce the use of coal, Freese provides a balanced study and analysis that transparently discusses the varied impacts coal has had on human society. Freese does not stray from discussing the health and environmental impacts coal has had, and continues to have, on our world. She also does not stray from discussing the material benefits that coal has provided human society.

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