Masters and men in the small metal trades of the West Midlands, 1660-1760

  • Marie B. Rowlands

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy



    This study examines the part played by both the productive workers and the commercial capitalists, in the small metal manufacturing industry of the West Midlands 1660-1760. It also considers the status of both groups in the community.

    Part 1: In the sixteenth century the industry was based on a dual economy. By 1660 it had developed a commercial organisation capable of reaching distant! markets and a productive capacity capable of supplying them.

    Part 2: There were wide differences of technique and organisation between the trades, and corresponding social differences. The family unit of production was of coroiderable significance in the growth of the industry providing reserves of man power and investable capital. Some metal workers achieved a considerable degree of domestic comfort.

    Part 3: Much of the iron produced in England was consumed in the Midlands and there were constant efforts to increase the field of supply. Midlands ironmongers played a significant part in these attempts.

    Part 4: The Midlands ironmongers were a numerous body. They were not
    conspicuously competitive, and there were opportunities for small scale operators; nevertheless there was a marked continuity of leadership. The commercial activities of the ironmongers were attended by many complications and limitations, but this did not prevent rapid expansion and considerable prosperity. Direct bargaining with the workmen, a marked feature of the earlier period, began to decline, as a small but growing class of int.ermediaries emerged.

    Part 5: From about 1710, Midland metalworkers responded speedily to
    changing demands by diversification of their products and increased
    specialisation. A wider range of raw materials was used, and new
    techniques were introduced. This led to some changes in organisation but new ways did not displace the old. When change did come, it was not the result of the leadership of a few outstanding individuals but the
    cumulative effect of many small initiatives by obscure men.
    Date of Award1972
    Original languageEnglish


    • Masters
    • men
    • small metal trades
    • West Midlands
    • 1660-1760

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