Mining and Metallurgy in Medieval Europe - Late Middle Ages, 14th To 16th Centuries

Late Middle Ages, 14th To 16th Centuries

By the 14th century, the majority of the more easily accessible ore deposits were exhausted. Thus, more advanced technological achievements were introduced in order to cope up with the demand in metal. The alchemical laboratory, separating precious metals from the baser ones they are typically found with, was an essential feature of the metallurgical enterprise. However, a significant hiatus in underground mining was noted during the 14th and the early 15th century because of a series of historical events with severe social and economic impacts. The Great Famine (1315–1317), the Black Death (1347–1353), which diminished European population to 1/3, and the Hundred Years War (1337–1453), which amongst others caused severe deforestation, had also dramatic influences in metallurgical industry and trade. The great demand of material, e.g. for armour, could not be met due to the lack of manpower and capital investment.

It is only by the end of the 13th century that great capital expenditures are invested and more sophisticated machinery is installed in underground mining, which resulted in reaching great depths. The wider application of water- and horse-power was necessary for draining water out of these deep shafts. Also, acid parting in separating gold from silver was introduced in the 14th century (Bayley 2008). However, notable signs of recovery were present only after the mid-15th century, when the improved methods were widely adopted (Nef 1987, 723).

Determinant for the European metal production and trade was the discovery of the New World, which affected world economy ever since. Even though new rich ore deposits were found in Central Europe during the 15th century, this was not enough to meet the large amounts of precious metal imports from America.

Read more about this topic:  Mining And Metallurgy In Medieval Europe

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