Rapid Invention, Slow Industrialization, and the Absent Entrepreneur in Medieval China

17th century Map of China

For some sixteen centuries, about eight times the length of the period since the onset of England’s Industrial Revolution, China was the source of an astonishing outpouring of inventions that included a vast variety of prospectively valuable novelties as diverse as printing, the blast furnace, the spinning wheel, the wheelbarrow, and playing cards, in addition to the more widely recognized gunpowder and compass.

Renaissance Robotics: Leonardo da Vinci’s Lost Knight and Enlivened Materiality

Model of Leonardo's robot with inner workings, as displayed in Berlin. Photo by Erik Möller

The knight, when activated, would spring upright while simultaneously closing its arms in a lateral, pectoral embrace.

How did medieval seafarers turn trees into boat parts?

timbers ships

In this video, Professor Jon Adams of the University of Southampton explains the techniques by which shipwrights have converted the trees of the forest into the components of the boats in which people eventually sailed around the world.

Medieval Studies and STEM

Medieval Studies and STEM

Here are 15 ways that medieval studies and STEM are working together.

The Astrolabe: Medieval Multi-Tool of Navigation

Chaucer's Astrolable - photo by Viewminder / Flikr

They were the Swiss Army knife of medieval travelers.

Ore, Fire, Hammer, Sickle: Iron Production in Viking Age and Early Medieval Iceland

iceland - photo by Eric Montfort / Flickr

Iron production may be used as a window through which to view, in part, the economic structure of Icelandic society during the Viking Age (c. AD 870-1000) and Early Medieval (AD 1000-1264) periods.

Places to See: The King Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester

Standing over the spot Richard III was discovered at the King Richard III Visitor's Centre in Leicester. Photo by Medievalists.net

Now that Richard III has been laid to rest, and his tomb is open to the public for viewing, what more is there left to see when you’re in Leicester? Plenty.

The Men Behind the Metal

medieval blacksmith - photo by Hans Splinter / Flickr

Medieval blacksmiths were loved, hated, thought to have magical healing powers, and able to fend off the devil. Here’s a quick look at the men behind the metal.

The Pre-History of Gunpowder

An illustration of a fire arrow rocket launcher as depicted in the 11th century book Wujing Zongyao.

There is a Chinese tradition that a cook carrying a bowl of saltpetre slipped and dropped it onto a charcoal fire. That would certainly create a considerable conflagration but, as the ingredients were not mixed, hardly an explosion.

Mons Meg removed from Edinburgh Castle for conservation work

mons meg

Mons Meg, one of the most famous weapons of the Middle Ages, was removed from Edinburgh Castle last month for specialist restoration and conservation work.

Saltpetre in medieval gunpowder: Calcium or Potassium Nitrate?

medieval cannon

Until recently, it has been accepted that the formulation of gunpowder has always been based on variable mixtures of charcoal, sulphur and potassium nitrate. This has recently been challenged.

From Tempests and Hydraulic Machines to the Arno Diversion: the Historical Significance of da Vinci’s Study of Water

da vinci water

Reemergence of classical thought and the importance of water in society led da Vinci to pursue multiple projects regarding his study of water – culminating in the project to divert the Arno River.

A Portal to the Universe: The Astrolabe as a Site of Exchange in Medieval and Early Modern Knowledge

medeval astrolabe

This essay analyzes the astrolabe and its ability to transfer ideas and culture across traditional geographic boundaries, from the perspective of Europe in the Medieval and Early Modern eras.

Lost in the Mail

bracelet on arm

Recently, I picked up a new hobby in this vein: making chain mail.

The Early Medieval Cutting Edge of Technology

anglo saxon knife from the British Museum

Comparison of knives from England, Dublin and Europe revealed that the Vikings had little direct impact on England’s knife manufacturing industry, although there was a change in manufacturing methods in the 10th century towards the mass produced sandwich welded knife.

Building Medieval Plate Armor: An Operator’s Guide

Building Medieval Plate Armor

The subject was how understanding the design and function of real medieval plate armor can help someone build their own suit of armor in a more historically accurate and properly functional way.

Cut, Chop and Thrust: The Sword through Millennia

Cut, Chop and Thrust The Sword through Millennia

Igor and Phillip talk about the history of the European Sword, including its technology, design, rituals, traditions, symbols, social and religious meanings.

Medieval glass artefacts shed new light on Swedish history

Anna Ihr’s doctoral thesis in archaeology from the University of Gothenburg describes how vitrified materials found in archaeological excavations can be interpreted. Photo: Monica Havström

Archaeological finds of glass material from Old Lödöse, a Swedish trade centre in the High Middle Ages, call for a revision of the country’s glass history.

Ten Medieval Inventions that Changed the World

Medieval Inventions that Changed the World

Ten Inventions from the Middle Ages that have had lasting importance, even to the present-day.

A Good Day for a Trebuchet, Part II: The Siege of the Sandpit

The Siege of the Sandpit

The fact that you can build a trebuchet out of found materials and still have it manage to function consistently and accurately speaks to the genius of the original design.

The civil uses of gunpowder: demolishing, quarrying, and mining (15th-18th centuries). A reappraisal

Gunpowder used to destroy  Rochester Bridge in the 19th century

The first idea of blasting appears in 1403, when a Florentine engineer pondered on how to open a breach in the walls of Pisa by exploding a charge of black powder inside an old walled-up gate.

Medieval Siege Machines: The Bellifortis by Conrad Keyser

medieval siege machines

One of the most imaginative and fascinating works to depict medieval siege warfare is the Bellifortis by Conrad Keyser.

A Good Day for a Trebuchet

15th century depiction of a trebuchet

You know you’re a medieval nerd when you walk into a toy store with the intention of getting toys for actual children, and walk out with a build-your-own-trebuchet kit for yourself.

An Introduction to the Mechanical Arts in the Middle Ages

Medieval Mechanical Arts

I plan to present the mechanical arts as they stood in medieval intellectual thought.

Time and Clocks in the Middle Ages

Medieval Clock

What is told by hands, measured in sand, and announced with bells?

medievalverse magazine