Central Question: How can the story of coal help students understand the nature of today's fossil-fueled world?


Photo, At the close of the day, January 1911, Lewis Hine, Library of Congress

Why did the American economy take off in the late 19th century? What were the consequences of the nation's industrial ascendancy? Textbook treatments of what some historians call the "second industrial revolution"—the period of rapid and tumultuous economic expansion that stretched from the 1860s into the 1900s—can seem superficial and unsatisfying in comparison to neighboring sections on social change, political conflict, and cultural ferment. A better understanding of the story of coal, too often ignored by textbook authors, can provide students with important understandings about the nature of today's fossil-fueled world.

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