Inventing Pollution: Coal, Smoke, and Culture in Britain since 1800 by Peter ThorsheimInventing Pollution: Coal, Smoke, and Culture in Britain since 1800 by Peter Thorsheim

Inventing Pollution: Coal, Smoke, and Culture in Britain since 1800

byPeter Thorsheim

Paperback | March 31, 2006

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Britain's supremacy in the nineteenth century depended in large part on its vast deposits of coal. This coal not only powered steam engines in factories, ships, and railway locomotives but also warmed homes and cooked food. As coal consumption skyrocketed, the air in Britain's cities and towns became filled with ever-greater and denser clouds of smoke.

In this far-reaching study, Peter Thorsheim explains that, for much of the nineteenth century, few people in Britain even considered coal smoke to be pollution. To them, pollution meant miasma: invisible gases generated by decomposing plant and animal matter. Far from viewing coal smoke as pollution, most people considered smoke to be a valuable disinfectant, for its carbon and sulfur were thought capable of rendering miasma harmless.

Inventing Pollution examines the radically new understanding of pollution that emerged in the late nineteenth century, one that centered not on organic decay but on coal combustion. This change, as Peter Thorsheim argues, gave birth to the smoke-abatement movement and to new ways of thinking about the relationships among humanity, technology, and the environment.

Peter Thorsheim is an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
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Title:Inventing Pollution: Coal, Smoke, and Culture in Britain since 1800Format:PaperbackDimensions:360 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.8 inPublished:March 31, 2006Publisher:Ohio University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0821416812

ISBN - 13:9780821416815

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Editorial Reviews

"Inventing Pollution is a valuable reminder that air pollution was causing environmental, medical, and political controversies long before it became a focus for protests and regulations in the 1960s. By tracing the many responses to 'smoke pollution' in the first industrial nation over the past two centuries, Peter Thorsheim has established himself as a leading environmental historian of modern Britain. His book will be of wide interest on both sides of the Atlantic."—William Cronon, author of Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England and Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature