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What Else Is Pastoral?Renaissance Literature and the Environment$
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Ken Hiltner

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449406

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449406.001.0001

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Representing Air Pollution in Early Modern London

Representing Air Pollution in Early Modern London

(p.95) 5 Representing Air Pollution in Early Modern London
What Else Is Pastoral?

Ken Hiltner

Cornell University Press

This chapter considers one of the most important, though now nearly forgotten, environmental problems of the seventeenth century. While human beings have been burning fossil fuels for thousands of years, seventeenth-century Londoners, having deforested the area surrounding their city, were almost exclusively burning a particularly dangerous form of highly sulfurous coal. As a result, the city was the first on the planet to experience on a large scale the now ubiquitous and characteristically modern problem of urban air pollution. What is particularly interesting about this environmental situation is that early modern London's air-pollution crisis rarely appears directly in canonical Renaissance literary texts. Part of the reason for this is that pastoral works are often too effective at holding a pastoral focus, often giving little or no consideration to the new backdrop, such as expanding London with its pollution-filled skies, emerging on the scene. The chapter aims to provide historical evidence of what was happening in and outside of Renaissance England to indicate something of its true environmental situation. One work that accurately describes many of seventeenth-century England's environmental problems is Sir John Denham's Cooper's Hill.

Keywords:   Renaissance pastoral, London, coal burning, urban air pollution, environmental problems, John Denham, Cooper's Hill

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