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As a byproduct of each publication, we are creating digital archives for all the artists with whom we work. Divided Society: Northern Ireland This link opens in a new window. By the late 20th century, coal was, for the most part, replaced in domestic as well as industrial and transportation usage by oil , natural gas or electricity produced from oil, gas, nuclear power or renewable energy sources. By , coal produced over a fourth of the world's energy, and by it is expected to produce about a third. Since , coal mining has also been a political and social issue.
Coal miners' labour and trade unions became powerful in many countries in the 20th century, and often, the miners were leaders of the Left or Socialist movements as in Britain, Germany, Poland, Japan, Chile, Canada and the U. Early coal extraction was small-scale, the coal lying either on the surface, or very close to it. Typical methods for extraction included drift mining and bell pits. As well as drift mines, small scale shaft mining was used.
This took the form of a bell pit, the extraction working outward from a central shaft, or a technique called room and pillar in which 'rooms' of coal were extracted with pillars left to support the roofs. Both of these techniques however left considerable amount of usable coal behind. Archeological evidence in China indicates surface mining of coal and household usage after approximately BC.
The earliest reference to the use of coal in metalworking is found in the geological treatise On stones Lap. Among the materials that are dug because they are useful, those known as coals are made of earth, and, once set on fire, they burn like charcoal. They are found in Liguria The earliest known use of coal in the Americas was by the Aztecs who used coal for fuel and jet a type of lignite for ornaments. Excavation has revealed coal stores at many forts along Hadrian's Wall as well as the remains of a smelting industry at forts such as Longovicium nearby.
After the Romans left Britain, in AD , there are few records of coal being used in the country until the end of the 12th century. One that does occur is in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle for the year when a rent including 12 loads of coal is mentioned. This commodity, however, was not suitable for use in the type of domestic hearths then in use, and was mainly used by artisans for lime burning , metal working and smelting.
As early as , sea coal from the north-east was being taken to London. As a result of this, a Royal proclamation was issued in prohibiting artificers of London from using sea coal in their furnaces and commanding them to return to the traditional fuels of wood and charcoal. In , Sir George Bruce of Carnock of Culross , Scotland , opened the first coal mine to extract coal from a "moat pit" under the sea on the Firth of Forth.
The technology was far in advance of any coal mining method in the late medieval period and was considered one of the industrial wonders of the age. During the 17th century a number of advances in mining techniques were made, such the use of test boring to find suitable deposits and chain pumps , driven by water wheels , to drain the collieries. North American coal deposits were first discovered by French explorers and fur traders along the shores of Grand Lake in central New Brunswick, Canada in the s. Coal seams were exposed where rivers flowed into the lake and was dug by hand off the surface and from tunnels dug into the seam.
About the French made their fur trading post at the mouth of the Saint John River their main post in Acadia and started construction of a new fort. The main residence at the fort was designed with two 11 foot wide fireplaces which were stocked with wood and coal from up river. As early as , the French were sending coal and other supplies to the British colony at Boston. The Industrial Revolution , which began in Britain in the 18th century, and later spread to continental Europe , North America , and Japan , was based on the availability of coal to power steam engines.
International trade expanded exponentially when coal-fed steam engines were built for the railways and steamships during the Victorian era. Coal was cheaper and much more efficient than wood fuel in most steam engines. As central and Northern England contains an abundance of coal, many mines were situated in these areas as well as the South Wales coalfield and Scotland. The small-scale techniques were unsuited to the increasing demand, with extraction moving away from surface extraction to deep shaft mining as the Industrial Revolution progressed.
As steamships traveled overseas from the industrialized countries of Europe their need for coal served as trigger for coal mining to start at various locations across the globe. An example of this is the coal mining in Zona Centro Sur , Chile, that began as a response to the arrival of steamships to Talcahuano. Although some deep mining took place as early as the s in North East England , and along the Firth of Forth coast   deep shaft mining in the UK began to develop extensively in the late 18th century, with rapid expansion throughout the 19th century and early 20th century when the industry peaked.
The location of the coalfields helped to make the prosperity of Lancashire , of Yorkshire , and of South Wales. The Yorkshire pits which supplied Sheffield were only about feet deep. Northumberland and Durham were the leading coal producers and they were the sites of the first deep pits. In much of Britain coal was worked from drift mines , or scraped off when it outcropped on the surface. Small groups of part-time miners used shovels and primitive equipment. Scottish miners had been bonded to their "maisters" by a Act "Anent Coalyers and Salters". A Colliers and Salters Scotland Act , recognised this to be "a state of slavery and bondage" and formally abolished it; this was made effective by a further law in Before a great deal of coal was left in places as extraction was still primitive.
The use of wooden pit props to support the roof was an innovation first introduced about The critical factor was circulation of air and control of dangerous explosive gases. At first fires were burned at the bottom of the "upcast" shaft to create air currents and circulate air, but replaced by fans driven by steam engines. Protection for miners came with the invention of the Davy lamp and Geordie lamp , where any firedamp or methane burnt harmlessly within the lamp. It was achieved by preventing the combustion spreading from the light chamber to the outside air with either metal gauze or fine tubes, but the illumination from such lamps was very poor.
Coal was so abundant in Britain that the supply could be stepped up to meet the rapidly rising demand. In the annual output of coal was just under 3 million tons. After output soared, reaching 16 million long tons by at the height of the Napoleonic War. By this had risen to over 30 million tons  The miners, less affected by imported labour or machines than were the cotton mill workers, had begun to form trade unions and fight their grim battle for wages against the coal owners and royalty-lessees.
Use of women and children at a fraction of the cost of men was common until abolished in an Act of August In South Wales, the miners showed a high degree of solidarity. They lived in isolated villages where the miners comprised the great majority of workers. There was a high degree of equality in life style; combined with an evangelical religious style based on Methodism this led to an ideology of egalitarianism. They forged a "community of solidarity" - under the leadership of the Miners Federation.
The union supported first the Liberal Party, then after Labour, with some Communist Party activism at the fringes. The need to maintain coal supplies a primary energy source had figured in both world wars.
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Much of the 'old Left ' of British politics can trace its origins to coal-mining areas, with the main labour union being the Miners' Federation of Great Britain , founded in The MFGB claimed , members in Although other factors were involved, one cause of the UK General Strike of was concerns colliers had over very dangerous working conditions, reduced pay and longer shifts. Technological development throughout the 19th and 20th centuries helped both to improve the safety of colliers and the productive capacity of collieries they worked.
In the late 20th century, improved integration of coal extraction with bulk industries such as electrical generation helped coal maintain its position despite the emergence of alternative energies supplies such as oil, natural gas and, from the late s, nuclear power used for electricity. More recently coal has faced competition from renewable energy sources and bio-fuels.
Most of the coal mines in Britain were purchased by the government in and put under the control of the National Coal Board , with only the smaller mines left in private ownership. The NUM had campaigned for nationalisation for decades and, once it was achieved, sought to work with the NCB in managing the industry and discouraged strikes. Under the chairmanship of Alf Robens , pit closures became widespread as coal's place in energy generation declined. The NUM leadership continued to resist calls for strike action, but an unofficial strike began in after a conference pledge on the hours of surface-workers was not acted upon.
This was a watershed moment that led to increased spending on the coal industry and a much slower rate of pit closures, as well as the election of more militant officials to the NUM leadership. Under the government of Ted Heath, an official strike in won increased wages after the Wilberforce Commission. Less than two years later, Heath called a general election over another official strike, called after an overtime ban had led to a Three Day Week in Britain, and lost the election to the Labour Party. The wage demands were then met and spending on the industry continued to increase, including the establishment of the new Selby Coalfield.
By the early s, many pits were almost years' old and were considered uneconomic  to work at then current wage rates compared to cheap North Sea oil and gas, and in comparison to subsidy levels in Europe. The Miners' Strike of failed to stop the Conservative government's plans under Margaret Thatcher to shrink the industry, and a break-away Union of Democratic Mineworkers was founded by miners, mostly in the Midlands, who felt that the NUM had broken its own democratic rules in calling the strike.
The National Coal Board by then British Coal , was privatised by selling off a large number of pits to private concerns through the mids. Because of exhausted seams, high prices and cheap imports, the mining industry disappeared almost completely, despite the militant protests of some miners.
The coal was exhausted. Kellingley Colliery was the last deep coal mine in operation in the UK and its last coaling shift was on 18 December when coaling operations ceased with the loss of jobs bringing deep coal mining in the UK to an end in its entirety, a skeleton team of men will remain to service the colliery until it is finally dismantled.
Coal mining was never a major industry in Ireland, apart from a spell in the midth century when east Tyrone collieries were at their peak. Deerpark Mines was the largest opencast site. In it got rail connections and reached peak production in the s. Anthracite or "hard" coal , clean and smokeless, became the preferred fuel in cities, replacing wood by about Bituminous or "soft coal" mining came later. In the mid-century Pittsburgh was the principal market. After soft coal, which is cheaper but dirtier, came into demand for railway locomotives and stationary steam engines , and was used to make coke for steel after Total coal output soared until ; before , it doubled every ten years, going from 8.
The Great Depression of the s lowered the demand to million short tons in Under John L.
Lewis , the United Mine Workers UMW became the dominant force in the coal fields in the s and s, producing high wages and benefits. At the same time steam engines were phased out in railways and factories, and bituminous coal was used primarily for the generation of electricity. Employment in bituminous peaked at , men in , falling to , by and 70, in UMW membership among active miners fell from , in to only 16, in , as coal mining became more mechanized and non-union miners predominated in the new coal fields.
In the s a series of mergers saw coal production shift from small, independent coal companies to large, more diversified firms. Several oil companies and electricity producers acquired coal companies or leased Federal coal reserves in the west of the United States. Concerns that competition in the coal industry could decline as a result of these changes were heightened by a sharp rise in coal prices in the wake of the oil crisis. Coal prices fell in the s, partly in response to oil price movements, but primarily in response to the large increase in supply worldwide which was brought about by the earlier price surge.
During this period, the industry in the U. In Wyoming became the largest coal producing state. It uses strip mining exclusively. Wyoming's coal reserves total about In , competition was intense in the US coal mining industry with some U. Coal is used primarily to generate electricity, but the rapid drop in natural gas prices after created severe competition.
In Australia surpassed the US as the world's largest coal exporter. One-third of Australia's coal exports were shipped from the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, where coal mining and transport had begun nearly two centuries earlier. Coal River was the first name given by British settlers to the Hunter River after coal was found there in In the Sydney-based administration established a permanent convict settlement near the mouth of the Hunter River to mine and load the coal, predetermining the town's future as a coal port by naming it Newcastle.
Today, Newcastle, NSW, is the largest coal port in the world. Now the state of Queensland is Australia's top coal producer, with its Bowen Basin the main source of black coal, and plans by miners such as Gina Rinehart to open up the Galilee and Surat Basins to coal mining. The United States has been a major supplier for the industrial regions of Ontario. S while Eastern Canadian ports import considerable coal from Venezuela.
Coal was found by French explorers and fur traders along the shores of Grand Lake where rivers and erosion had exposed the coal. Small amounts of coal were dug from surface deposits and tunnels dug into the coal seams, and this coal supplied Fort Saint Marie, built by the French about at the mouth of the Saint John River. The French sold coal to the British colony at Boston as early as Coal mining expanded after the British took control of the area in the mid s and encouraged permanent settlements in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario by British Loyalists.
Beginning in , over 11, Loyalists settled in N.
Approximately , tons of coal were dug at Grand Lake between and using surface collection, vertical shafts and the room and pillar system. By , the use of draglines and other modern equipment made strip mining possible and the privately owned Grand Lake area mines produced over , tons per year. Most of this coal was used by the railroad and large businesses.
By , a coal burning electric power generating plant at Newcastle Creek was operating with two 33, volt lines going to Fredericton and one 66, volt line going to Marysville. By , coal production at Grand Lake often reached 1 million tons per year. In , all the privately owned Grand Lake area coal companies and approximately 1, employees were consolidated into one provincial government controlled company named N. Coal Ltd.. In , the increasing availability of oil and environmental concerns with coal use caused the closing of the Grand Lake coal mines and New Brunswick's coal mining industry.
The first coal mining in Nova Scotia began in the 18th century with small hand-dug mines close to the sea at Joggins, Nova Scotia and in the Sydney area of Cape Breton Island. Large scale coal mining began in the late s when the General Mining Association GMA , a group of English mining investors, obtained a coal mining monopoly in Nova Scotia. They imported the latest in mining technology including steam water pumps and railways to develop large mines in the Stellarton area of Pictou County, Nova Scotia , including the Foord Pit which by was the deepest coal mine in the world.
Nova Scotia was the major supplier of Canadian coal until The miners, who lived in company towns, became politically active in left-wing politics during labour struggles for safety and fair wages. Westray Mine near Stellarton closed in after an explosion killed 26 miners. All the subsurface mines were closed by , although some open pit coal mining continues near Stellarton. The Nova Scotia Museum of Industry at Stellarton explores the history of mining in the province from its location on the site of the Foord Pit.
Coal was easy to find in what is now Drumheller , Alberta , Canada. This museum interprets how the Blackfoot and Cree knew about the "black rock that burned. Sam Drumheller started the coal rush in this area when he bought the land from a local rancher, which he then sold to the Canadian National Railway. Sam Drumheller also registered a coal mine. Once the railway was built thousands of people came to mine this area.