I should start saying this is an enjoyable and informative book. It covers a variety of aspects of the history of coal concetrating on the human story: those who made relevant discoveries, fortunes, lost their lifes, worked under extreme conditions to get it, etc.
My major concern with the book is that almost every statement in it is supported by sources such as "one observer", "one letter to the newspaper", "one poet once said", "one factory in Pennsylvania was said to"...
If you dig through 500 years of history, I am sure you can find accounts of individuals to tell ANY story. Perhaps I was influenced by having just read "Collapse" (a must read), or by the fact that I am an academic, but the research here was really superficial and doesn't give you the impression the author is letting the facts speak for themselves. My guess, however, is that there isn't a better audiobook outthere about coal, so if the topic interests you, this is it.
I feel, however, that if you spend 8 hours listening about coal, you should feel like you really know what you should know about coal, this book was written by a lawyer, so afer 8 hours you can say "oh, that's intersting", and wish a coal expert wrote a book on the topic...
The book does not get boring, the tone of the narration is enjoyable and easy to follow.
It covers the whole roman period.
1) Superficial. For big and important chunks of history you learn nearly nothing. Of Caligula and Nero, for example, you hear but the most widely known simple factoids.
2) No sources. In the more than 7 hours of lecturing, the prof. gives two or three sources. Unlike the excellent *Collapse* by Diamond, for example, you are never told how certain we are of different facts, how do we know what the prof. claims we know, etc
3) Speculation. Too often the prof. talks about certain things which are clear speculation, without qualifying them, or justifying them. Just one example: she claims Hannibal hate of the Romans comes from a specific moment when his father asked him to do so for the rest of his life (!). Also, she often talks as if we knew the motives behind people's actions for example: "the senate did this because they realized such and such thing" how does she know WHY they did something?
4) Paraphrasing non-existing individuals. By far the most annoying part of this series of lectures is when the prof. pretends to be different characters in history, including "the average roman" and starts talking as if quoting e.g. "sure!, we can call you *the great* why not? If that will save our lifes". Many many times she talks as if she had access to the psyche of the average roman in response to big events, how can she possibility know what they were going through in their subjective perception of events!?
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