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In the Kingdom of Coal : An American Family and the Rock That Changed the World
It was a time of poverty and enterprise, when poor men slaved in the mines, rich men became barons and America grew from a backward agricultural colony to the industrial force of the modern world. The driving power behind this transformation was coal, the black gold that even today illuminates our cities and runs our computers.
In The Kingdom of Coal tells the extraordinary story of coal through the eyes of two families - one the magnates, one the miners - over five generations while locked together, for better or worse, in a common quest.
"Coal," writes former Wall Street Journal reporter Rottenberg (Revolution on Wall Street), has been "the critical force driving the modern world for the past two centuries." Rottenberg tries, with varying success, to animate that history with a well-written account of two families tied together by the busts and booms of the coal industry as it evolved from an almost agricultural endeavor in the late 18th century into a highly mechanized but physically and financially dangerous modern corporate enterprise. One family, the Leisenrings, owned and operated major American mining companies for five generations. The second family, the Givenses, worked the mines of eastern Virginia for most of the 20th century. Rottenberg's background as a financial writer stands him in good stead as he skillfully traces the relationship between technical advances that made coal a more economically feasible source of energy and the infrastructure changes (canals and later railroads) that facilitated the movement of coal. His treatment of larger events the unionization of manufacturing industries, the Great Depression, WWII and the Vietnam War expands the book's reach to reflect factors that influenced all of American industry. Rottenberg's access to materials about the Leisenrings enlivens his discussion of the corporate side of the coal equation. His account of the Givens family, whose lifestyle and culture are not as well documented, is less engaging. Rottenberg is particularly good on the rise and fall of the United Mine Workers and its charismatic union icon John L. Lewis and his successor, Tony Boyle, who was convicted of the murder of union rival Jack Yablonski. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Taylor & Francis
September 29, 2003
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