Coal, the remains of dead plants and biomass, carbonized into a dark black rock; dustier than Kansas with Toto, but burns beautifully. By the end of the 1600’s England was mining nearly every coal field they had, producing nearly two to three million tons (recent studies have questioned the accuracy of that number). With such disposable coal, many British industries by the 1700’s has switched to using coal as their primary fuel source. The use of coal in the reverberating furnace was significant in the process of glass making among other processes. The furnace built like a traffic cone, much like its name suggests, reverberated heat into the furnace, allowing for it to reach higher temperatures, needed in glass making and in many other industries.
With the turn of the century, the first commercially successful steam engine became prominent. The Newcomen engine used coal to power itself and was the first practical source of mobile power that wasn’t an animal or a elemental power. Fittingly its first major use was to drain mines that would fill with water, effectively filling itself with coal, by letting the miners mine. When introduced in 1733, 104 were pre-built and ready to go. By the end of the century, over 1500 had been constructed, 3 times the amount of Watt engines made. While these are not directly responsible for the industrial revolution, the clear connection can be seen in the use of coal power and the steam engine as a producer of mechanical work.
Harris goes on to say that while the first major revolution happened in England, the historical accuracy of it can be questioned. It’s known that England had the worlds largest copper smelting industry, yet to read about it, historians look at Swedish, German, and French works. Similarly, the most detailed written piece of work done on the coal industry, was made by a Frenchman. One possible explanation for this is that the techniques for coal working were already familiar in the end of the 17th century. With the rise of scientific literature in the same time period, there was no purpose to publishing those works in England, as they were common knowledge. The other explanation, is simply that written communication was not the best way to describe how to do the techniques, rather hands on presented a better description.
word count: 382
To read more about why Britain was the first, check out this lengthy blog/article/textbook thing!