The medieval glass industry
Medieval Industry, CBA Research Report No 40 (1981)
The evolution of most industrial processes can be traced by the passing of technological milestones, and glass-making is no exception. Unfortunately, by the time glass first seems to have been produced in this country many of these milestones had already been passed. As a result, and even within the most elastic confines of the medieval period, there are few consistent criteria available for defining a suitable starting point or a suitable end point. This is confirmed by the surviving manuals on glass-making whose contents reflect traditions that remained essentially unchanged over a period of 1600 years. Only in the use of specific types of material is there any significant alteration to the standard pattern, and even here there is no clear-cut dating. Archaeological examination is equally difficult. It is possible to examine sites where glass-making took place, but the operation was semi-nomadic and is a poor archaeological survivor. Trying to understand the medieval glass industry by archaeological means is no different from trying to understand Roman military architecture by examining marching camps.