Mining and the Metallurgical Industries in the Middle Ages – Carno

With the fall of the Roman Empire, the world fell into an age where metal production massively declined.  It would take nearly 500 years after the fall of Rome for metal production, other than iron,  to catch back up to what it was. The scene is Rammelsberg, Germany and the year is in the 10th century AD. Mining has just started to become a major job in your country. Rich iron, copper, and lead deposits in the area make mining profitable and worthwhile. As the centuries continued, mining would branch to other mountainous regions, with the metals expanding to gold and silver.  As the population increased, so did the demand for nearly all metal. In the mid 12th century and 1338, tin production alone rose tenfold.

With all this new mining income, feudal lords fought vigorously to control the profits and the mines, after all, thou who has the gold, makes the rules. By the 1300’s most lords claimed their share of the mining process, typically 1/10 of the ore, some coinage for what was sold, and reserved the right to claim the best metal for themselves for a lower price than it would have sold for. For a brief time, the Holy Roman Emperor attempted to say that all mines belonged to him, but was unable to maintain and enforce such a bold proclamation. This would not stop the absolute rulers of nations from trying, and in 1413 it was illegal for any lord other than the king to mine land in France. In England, the king had control over all silver and gold producing mines.

Mining did not go unregulated and mismanaged. Miners typically has special courts that would deal with matters affecting them, and customs with growing up in the mining industry would often give miners considerable power. Across Europe, miners were making codes of conduct and said that miners are free men with no taint of servile status.

By the 14th century, most mines had been dug to their extent on the surface and required deeper mine shafts with more supported walls and better dug tunnels. Such projects require more capital and more time to complete. With the new mining system, new techniques develop for extracting and processing ore into the desired metal.Image result for metallurgy in the middle ages

Water power became a common tool for mines and forges, along with better made furnaces and larger bellows to achieve greater yields when extracting metal from ore. Towards the end of the middle ages, the new blast furnace enabled the large scale production of cast iron, which would usher in a new era of metal. One where metal was everything from cannons and guns, to common day items like forks and knives.

 

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2 Replies to “Mining and the Metallurgical Industries in the Middle Ages – Carno”

  1. Vince,

    The mining and metallurgical industries in the middle ages were truly impressive. The innovative implementations of other technologies in the development of mining and metallurgy technologies were truly impressive. The use of water and wind power were particularly prominent.

    For more information on metallurgy and medieval technology, follow this link: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1600-0498.1953.tb00520.x

    Great job summarizing these technologies during this time and great use of language to make this post more interesting to read.

    Best,
    Jordan

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