« Adventure in Iron » by B. G. Awty

Une publication prévue pour 2018 :

Adventure in Iron. 

The blast furnace and its spread from Namur to northern France, England and North America,1450-1640; a technological, political and genealogical investigation.

par Brian G. Awty

Cette recherche a joué un rôle essentiel dans la connaissance de la diffusion du procédé indirect d’élaboration du fer à partir de la fin du Moyen Âge. L’auteur (maintenant décédé) y a consacré plus de vingt ans, recueillant les données textuelles dans les dépôts d’archives de plusieurs pays (Royaume Uni, France, Belgique, etc.).

Plus d’informations sur le site internet du wealden iron research group.

Details of the book

The introduction of water-powered bellows in the manufacture of iron during the Middle Ages brought about a radical technological change. The taller furnace resulted in greater efficiency, with a much greater proportion of the iron extracted from the ore, but at least some of the iron produced was contaminated by carbon, and this cooled into a brittle cast iron, an apparently useless by-product, quite different from the intended wrought iron.

Gradually it became evident that cast iron could be put to use, like other metals such as lead and tin, by running it into moulds. At the same time a variety of techniques to ‘fine’, or eliminate its impurities were tried, so that useful wrought iron might again become the end product. The blast furnace was among the new processes that evolved. However, a satisfactory way of fining cast iron in large quantities, and making the ‘indirect method’ of iron production more practicable, evolved only in the 1440s. Such developments could not be accomplished without the craftsmen who were prepared to leave their homes and travel over land and sea, bringing with them skills which were handed down, sometimes across several generations, their techniques oft en being modified and improved in the process. These people are the heroes of this study.

In the very earliest period we know many of their names because it was to them that the leases of works were made, without the intervention of merchants or other procurers of capital. Although aft er around 1500 the names of technicians were replaced in leases and lawsuits by the names of forgemasters, oft en drawn from the ranks of landowners and merchants, the names of many of the individual workmen who carried the industry to England from northern France are preserved, found in the rolls of denization (naturalization) in the 1540s, when the threat of war with France made it expedient to order foreign nationals to become naturalized, or to quit the realm.

Contents (download detailed contents here)
Part I
1 Warfare and Water Power transform Ironworking
2 Ironworks in Namur and Burgundy
3 The First Walloon Migration
4 Ironworking in the Beauvaisis and Normandy
5 Henry VII and Ironfounding in the Weald
6 Expansion in the Weald up to 1525

Part II
7 Consolidation and the Manufacture of Cannon, 1525-1550
8 Wealden Iron to its Zenith and beyond its Borders, 1551-1575
9 Expansion throughout Britain and to America, 1575-1650

APPENDIX 1: Ironworkers listed in the denization rolls of 1541 and 1544
APPENDIX 2: Aliens in Lay Subsidy rolls of the Weald, 1524-1595


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