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Steven H

Location: Boston
Joined: 10 May 2006

Posts: 545

PostPosted: Sun 22 Apr, 2007 10:49 am    Post subject: The Price of Steel         Reply with quote

I'm curious about how the price of iron and steel compared in the Medieval era to each other and to the price of other valuable commodities like silver or gold or spices. I'm trying to get a more precise understanding of the economic factors behind armour development.

Info from any period roughly 500-1600 CE and anywhere in Europe, as I'm looking at broad trends.

Any links or specifics is appreciated.


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Glen A Cleeton

Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,931

PostPosted: Mon 23 Apr, 2007 8:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Steven,

This has come up at different intervals on various forums. I guess I should have collected some links for you before replying but there is some data out there, particularly after the 13th century. For some reason, the figure of 12 schillings for a finished sword comes to mind for that period (I could be thinking of something else). The British isles were somehat late to take a truly monetary approach to economy.

One reference gave accounts of value for various measures of pig iron and steel billets. Others are more precise English entry manifests that show large numbers of sword blades as common cargo.

I'll try to squirrel away some time today to gather some links together and retreive some examples I have posted elsewhere.

Not suprisingly, the location of ore deposits and nearby smelting/forging operations continue to be of great geographical importance to this day. In searching, this is one topic that is almost easier to follow backwards from the 19th and 18th centuries.

The two main sites I probe are the UK history online site and the searchable medieval resource guide. I can recant neither bookmark off the top of my head but they are quite extensive and reference many writings.


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Glen A Cleeton

Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

Posts: 1,931

PostPosted: Mon 23 Apr, 2007 10:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is an example of the types of things I stumble on when looking for other things. The following links are massive in the content they contain and leads they offer. This text was from a post I made elsewhere a couple of years ago. Edited for brevity.


13 Dec. 1382
Nicholas Darel, hostiller, was summoned to answer Tidemann Wauschede for a debt of £22 10s, the balance due on the purchase of two hogsheads of steel in 1377, the price being £28 10s, of which the defendant had paid, £6 on account at the time of sale.

The defendant pleaded that the only debt he owed was one of £22 10s due on a bond, and he was willing to make his law that he owed no other debt (Footnote 9) , and as the plaintiff had not produced any bond for the £22 10s, he prayed judgment as to whether any action lay against him. The plaintiff then acknowledged that there was no other debt than the, £22 10s, but as the bond was lost he could not produce it. If the defendant would pay this debt, he would give him a general acquittance or enter into any security the court might require that he would not sue the defendant on the bond, if he found it. He prayed that the defendant answer further. The latter said he did not wish to make any further answer.

Accordingly, in default of an answer, it was considered that the said Tidemann recover the said £22 10s, that the defendant be committed to prison and that the plaintiff give him an acquittance on his leaving prison or paying the debt. Afterwards on 13 May 1384 the plaintiff came into court and asked that the defendant be released from prison since they had come to an agreement.

Now, when did they start using pipe and butt?

Pipe/Butt = 2 hogsheads; 1/2 tun; 4 barrels; 126 U.S. gallons Puncheon = if wine: 84 U.S. gal if beer/ale: 72 U.S. gallons
Tun = 2 pipes; 4 hogsheads; 8 barrels ( if wine)252 U.S. gallons

Why is 14th century Britain using volume to measure steel? Things that make you go… hmmmm

What is missing there is a better description of the steel and in what form it was being sold. A good solid look at guilds and actual paid wages are always good guages of economy. England (just to use a constant example) made great strides in unifying internal commerce (mostly through taxes) from the time of the Norman conquest to the 14th century, when structure was well in place. You can find a lot of solid data within these links. From simple keyword searches to more extensive perusal of the individual records, thre is a lot there.

The first link is really terrific because you can bookshelf articles. I had not been there in awhile and was reminded upon returning just how scattered my collective thought is.

Here is a search result of the third link that I have seen before

I'm not recalling where I got the 12 shilling for a sword thought, nor a time frame. It may well have been a sum that reflected something else. The author of that list is kind of vauge about his references as well.


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