Coal: A Human History

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Freese, Barbara. Coal: A Human History. New York City: Perseus Publishing, 2003. New York City: Basic Books, 2016.

Sections on the early Industrial Revolution and the run-up thereto (especially ch. 4) offer an elegantly presented brief background on the interface between humans and the new machines of what would become The Age of the Machines/The Age of Steam — and the coal and iron that went into those machines. An important interface was where the tunnel ended and the coal started in the mines.

Note novelty of working to the rhythm of machines before dawn and after dark — by light from coal gas — for the early generation of proletarians who may've come from homes without even a mechanical clock. Useful for keeping in mind for such works as Lang's METROPOLIS and Vonnegut's Player Piano. (Vonnegut features skilled workers like machinists, with only in the deep background workers doing jobs perhaps best done totally by machines, but the "perhaps" adding to the nuance of a complex satire.)

Their motivation is not scholarly, but at least in its form on 11 January 2023, the Amazon web page offers useful bibliographic information, brief reviews, and links to similar reading; linked here.[1]

RDE, finishing, 12Ap21, 11Jan23