Producing Pollution: Coal, Smoke, and Society in Early Modern London


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




London was the first city in world history whose air was continually polluted by smoke, and this dissertation shows how Londoners both embraced and regretted their newly smoky air. Between 1550 and 1750, coal became the primary fuel for domestic fireplaces and burgeoning industries, a process resulting from political policies and choices as well as demographic and economic conjunctures. Through debates centering on morality, paternalism, and the public good, coal burning came to be associated with the hearth and the family, growth and prosperity, even as coal smoke was widely perceived to signify dirtiness, disorder, and danger. The production of pollution was both a material and a moral process, both a changing energy regime and a new set of responses to a troubling urban environment.