From Abundance to Scarcity Fuel Shortage and the Rise of Coal, 1550–1700
This chapter discusses the changing demand for coal between the 16th and 17th centuries. The doubling of the English population between the 1530s and the 1650s, from around 2.75 million to approximately 5.25 million, led to a massive expansion of the use of land for crops and animals, and with it the destruction of hundreds of thousands of acres of woodland. There was a build-up of pressure upon resources, and this was greatest upon the products of the land: foodstuffs and a wide range of raw materials such as wool, flax, hemp, dyestuffs, and leather, and of course wood and other surface fuels. By the opening decades of the 17th century, coal had become the staple fuel of the capital, and even those who could afford not to burn it depended upon a plentiful flow to keep wood prices from escalating still higher.
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