Ruth Goodman is known for her role as a BBC presenter on shows about the history of social customs. She argues here that replacing wood with coal as a means of heating British homes and firing their ovens radically altered the workload of women and thereby transformed society as well as industry. Despite this book's subtitle, the transition began in the late 16th century
Grounding her argument in a thorough overview of how cooking was fueled prior to the wide use of coal, Goodman displays a strong grasp of everything from the mechanics of combustion to the merits of not only wood and coal as fuel sources, but also thistle bundles, peat, and dung.
From this emerges a picture of everyday life in which obtaining fuel was a significant act, requiring time as well as money. Seventeenth-century Londoners might not have cooked at home because cooking fuel was beyond their means when a pie from a baker was not, but that would change as coal became more common. Ovens became practical in homes that had previously cooked only on a hearth.
There were numerous other impacts, all deftly explained here in crisp, readable prose.
Paperback. Line illustrations.