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  • Black Gold

  • The History of How Coal Made Britain
  • By: Jeremy Paxman
  • Narrated by: Jeremy Paxman
  • Length: 12 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Europe
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (107 ratings)

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Summary

From the best-selling historian and acclaimed broadcaster 

Coal is the commodity that made Britain. Dirty and polluting though it is, this black rock has acted as a midwife to genius. It drove industry, religion, politics, empire and trade. It powered the industrial revolution, turned Britain into the first urban nation and is the industry that made almost all others possible.

In this brilliant social history, Jeremy Paxman tells the story of coal mining in England, Scotland and Wales from Roman times, through the birth of steam power to war, nationalisation, pea-souper smogs, industrial strife and the picket lines of the Miner’s Strike.

Written in the captivating style of his best-selling book The English, Paxman ranges widely across Britain to explore stories of engineers and inventors, entrepreneurs and industrialists - but whilst coal inevitably helped the rich become richer, the story told by Black Gold is first and foremost a history of the working miners - the men, women and often children who toiled in appalling conditions down in the mines; the villages that were thrown up around the pit-head.

Almost all traces of coal-mining have vanished from Britain, but with this brilliant history, Black Gold demonstrates just how much we owe to the black stuff.

©2021 Jeremy Paxman (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic reviews

"A rich social history.... Paxman’s book could hardly be more colourful, and I enjoyed each page enormously." (Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times)

"Vividly told...Paxman’s fine narrative powers are at their best." (The Times

What listeners say about Black Gold

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  • Overall
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Poorly Edited

Great story and narration BUT editing and splicing of the audio tape is poor, so many words cut off at the end of sentences.

6 people found this helpful

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Read it! The audiobook is un-audible

Why not invest in audio editing or a better coach for the author/reader? The book is so very interesting, but the vanishing of the reader's voice at every subordinate clause is unbearable. I’ll go for the paper edition.

3 people found this helpful

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Learned a lot from this book

Undoubtedly a sterling effort at documenting the history of the coal industry and am glad I stuck with it despite a couple of hesitant moments when I was tempted to give up, just because of the sheer length of it. Don't be put off by the negative comments about the narration. Jeremy Paxman is quite an old man now and apparently has health problems but, in my opinion, it is still better to have the book read by him than anyone else. I had no problem in understanding what he was saying and my hearing isn't the best, being no spring chicken myself!

1 person found this helpful

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Great Story but curious quirks in the narration

The book gives a fascinating insight into the role of coal in the UK. The text was well paced and the story it built makes this something of a page turner.
The narration was generally fine, but it seemed poorly edited. The ends of some words were lost, the author/narrator added a few words on occasion, and there was at least one expletive uttered that did not appear in the original text. I was left wondering if the wrong version of the narration had been uploaded.

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Throughly enjoyable overview of the coal industry

The coal industry loomed large in my youth, from three day weeks in the 70s to the miners strike of the 80s. I was surprised how ignorant I was of its history, I’d never been a huge fan of Paxman’s sneering and aggressive interviewing style but this history has given me an insight into his outlook, and it’s rather attractive. The book is remarkably sympathetic to the miners and their families, so many of whom suffered terribly during the industry’s emergence. I also hadn’t realised how many great aristocratic fortunes were built on the back of coal. It’s a terrific listen.

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Outstanding social, political & economic history

A powerful and critically analysis of the role of coal in shaping our politics, economy, environment and society for many hundreds of years. Its a story of rampant greed, exploitation and abuse on a grand scale. It will change the way you view many splendid palaces, great art collections and figures in history when you realise how much suffering, death and cruelty towards ordinary people went into funding the super-rich and their extravagant lifestyles. The duplicitous dealings of politicians, the police, the 'great and good', the media and all their cronies, even up until recent times, don't come out of this too well, either. Why was I never taught this in history at school?

The only reason I have dropped a point in the ratings was an issue to do with the technical recording of this otherwise splendid audio book. I found, particularly in the first third of the book, that the very end of many sentences had been 'clipped off' so that you only got the first half of the word. l found this irritating and distracting as I then found myself focusing on these chopped off endings rather than the text. Shame. Maybe it's just me and my ears or headphones? This detracted from my listening pleasure but I still found this book to be an outstanding history.

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Well done ! Mr Paxman

Thoroughly enjoyed this book.Having read so many other books on the subject mattter of the Miners Strike,future of coal,Energy Policies the great Green debate and the future of fossils fuel.Is the planet melting or not? etc
This contribution is so well balanced and delivered in Mr Paxmans distinctive style that make it an enjoyable listen and he narrates it too.Well worth listening too.

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great story but lacks editing quality

For somebody who lives near to the north West Leicestershire coalfields this was a fascinating insight to the coal industry. The pre Victorian values of children in workplaces was quite horrific and an eye opener to what really went on. Fascinating story which was beautifully written but sadly let down by some editing errors in Mr Paxman's speech. I empathise strongly that he has Parkinson's but sometimes sentences stop before they're over.

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So far, so fascinating!

I have to admit, I’m a great fan of Jeremy Paxman and read everything he puts out and have gone to see him speak at literature festivals many times in the past. So it saddens me that some reviewers criticise his delivery on this Audible file. I love to hear his voice, even affected as it is by Parkinson’s, and think he has done a marvellous job to read this fascinating book. I am only a short way in but enjoying it immensely and am learning so much about the brave miners in our history. Thanks, Jeremy.

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Hard to understand

Great story but unfortunately the narrator slurs at times and cuts sentences short making it difficult to understand at certain points.

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  • Marjorie
  • 05-11-21

Everything - EVERYTHING - you wanted to know

This comprehensive history of coal in the UK covers a lot of ground (so to speak) in great detail. Much of it is fascinating - and tragic. Although the author does not make the point, the early coal miners were close to slaves, working under truly dreadful and dangerous conditions. The UK and USA share financial successes that rest on the backs of these laborers. The long, slow decline in the British coal industry covered the union/owners/government interactions in great detail, but how the out-of-work miners coped was explored only superficially.