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Metascience

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 479–482 | Cite as

Historical perspectives on Chinese metallurgy

Joseph Needham: science and civilisation in China, volume 5, chemistry and chemical technology, part 11: ferrous metallurgy, Donald B. Wagner (ed), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2008, 544 pp, £120.00 HB
  • Dagmar Schäfer
Book Review
  • 81 Downloads

When Lord George Macartney (1737–1806) in the year 1799 in An authentic account of an embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China reported back to his King on his trade mission to China, one of the issues he mocked was that “the iron ore of the Chinese is not well managed in their smelting furnace; and the metal is not so soft, malleable, or ductile as British iron. Their smith’s work is exceedingly brittle, as well as clumsy, and not polished.”1 A country far away in East Asia may be able to produce good paper and beautiful porcelain. But when it came to iron smelting, one of the driving forces behind the British economy of this era, Macartney was unwilling to give credit to any other empire.2 Most late eighteenth-century British descriptions on iron smelting outside their native place were cultural caricatures in which observations reflected the ideals and expectations of the viewer. For Thomas Bent the furnaces of The Ruined Cites of Mashonalandwere a curious...

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for the History of ScienceBerlinGermany

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