HomeCraftsmen and metalworking in medieval cities: 35 years later

HomeCraftsmen and metalworking in medieval cities: 35 years later

Craftsmen and metalworking in medieval cities: 35 years later

Hommes et travail du métal dans les villes médiévales : 35 ans après

In honour of Professor Paul Benoit

En hommage au Professeur Paul Benoit

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Published on Wednesday, December 26, 2018


The symposium addresses themetallurgies of iron, copper, tin, lead and precious metals, which produced a wide variety of objects necessary for urban life at the end of the Middle Ages. The nature, volume and possible standardization of production may be studied, as well as the needs of the city, the practices and techniques of craftsmen, their knowledge and know-how. The relationships between the crafts and between the craftsmen themselves might be examined, including dependency links, pluriactivity, networks of sociability or local relationships in urban areas. The identity and regulation of these crafts, their integration into urban society, their relationship with the surrounding rural areas and with other cities may also be revisited. The symposium will be interdisciplinary in nature, promoting dialogue between historians, archaeologists and archaeometry, without excluding anthropological approaches to learning and knowledge



Metals are omnipresent in late medieval cities. Wrought iron and lead are found everywhere, in the fi eld of construction for instance. Copper or tin-based alloys come in many forms, from the smallest belt ornament to imposing cannons, bells or statues, throughout the kitchen, and on the table. Precious metals are traded as luxury goods. The metal-working sector supplies a varied and multifaceted market, consisting of both custom-made and mass-produced goods.

The men who made and sold these products were responding to the strong demands of populations and institutions, for example for communal equipment. Artisans were grouped in guilds with various identities and regulations. They produced in sedentary or itinerant workshops, on building sites for instance, for urban customers, large markets, the surrounding countryside, as well as, at a further remove, other cities. These urban metal working structures for shaping, processing, and exchanging semi-fi nished products or even for services are not unrelated to the mining and processing of metal ores in rural areas. However, since metals are easily recycled, the city becomes, in a sense, a polymetallic mine exploited by old metal recovery channels — this is probably one of the distinctive characteristics of the sector.

Despite their apparent and real diversity, these craftsmen often had much in common: similar raw materials (ores, semi-fi nished products, fuels), overlapping sets of tools (crucibles, moulds, hammers, anvils, water mills), technical actions and chaînes opératoires, and both a knowledge of their materials and the skills necessary for their transformation.

In March 1984, a roundtable discussion entitled Urban Metallurgy in Medieval France was organized under the direction of Paul Benoit and Denis Cailleaux. It brought together twelve historians presenting studies on Paris and other cities of the Kingdom of France, Lombardy, Flanders, Brabant and the Meuse Valley. Their conclusions opened up research avenues that were followed by a generation of researchers, often in line with the work of Paul Benoit. Thirty-fi ve years later, the symposium planned for 2019 and dedicated to Paul Benoit will make it possible to draw up a new assessment of these themes which have not been addressed collectively since then.

The organizers invite researchers to refl ect on the concept of urban metallurgy and its actors, whatever their specialty: blacksmiths, farriers, locksmiths, gunsmiths and gun founders, watchmakers, coppersmiths, plumbers, tin potters, goldsmiths, coiners, or merchants trading semifi nished or fi nished products in metal. Papers can address different aspects of metalworking and craftsmen from the socio-economic study of a craft to the more technical aspects of production. For example, the demographic importance of the craftsmen, their level of wealth, and their individual career paths can be accessed, as can the role of the guilds or their members in urban life, for example in political institutions.

It will also be an opportunity to discuss the topographic environment of the workshops, the organization of the work, the techniques, the tools, the capital necessary for an installation, the quantitative importance of the productions, and the adaptation to a growing and varied demand. Metalworking requires various knowledge and know-how. Its nature, learning, and modes of transmission must be grasped. The reality of working metal may also be studied with the normative texts as well as by addressing the nature of production in relation to the designations of crafts, on the nature of these designations, and on what they say about the medieval categorisation of metal crafts.

The symposium will also endeavor to highlight any evidence of specialization, dependency relationships in the same production chain, for example, between manufacturers and holders of capital, or metalworkers’ possible links to other sectors such as supplying reinforcing elements or locks to the building trades, vats to brewers, dyers, or ovens that used metal tanks. The identities of the crafts and the relationships between the metal craftsmen will also be surveyed to identify commercial or matrimonial links, relationships of trust or accountability, and the structure of these social networks. By characterizing the specifi c nature of an urban metallurgy, the question of the attractiveness of the city can be raised and possibly refl ected in an analysis of the migration of craftsmen. Finally, there are the questions about the relationship between cities and countryside (dispersion, concentration and relocation of activities, the supply of raw materials, and the distribution of fi nished products), and the loci of technical innovation.

In 1984, the organizers of the roundtable regretted the absence of archeology evidence and called for the integration of such data to broaden the understanding of production processes and techniques. Thirty-fi ve years later, the organizers of the symposium wish to renew this call to make our exchanges truly interdisciplinary by integrating data from written, archeological, iconographic, and literary sources with the refl ections of the specialists on guilds, work, techniques, and cities while assuring we do not exclude either sociological and anthropological approaches to the understanding of apprenticeships and know-how.

Proceedings will be published after the symposium.

Submission guidelines

Abstracts can be written in either French or English, with the title and the contact details of the main author. They should be sent by email as a Word document and with 2,500 characters maximum, including spaces, to lisesaussus@gmail.com.

These abstracts will be submitted to the scientific committee.

Deadline for proposal submission : 15 march 2019.

See the attached file in pdf for the argument.

Organising Committee

  • Lise SAUSSUS1,2, Nicolas THOMAS2,3, Danielle ARRIBET-DEROIN2, Marc BOMPAIRE4

1. LabEx HaStec. 2. Lamop UMR 8589 CNRS - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. 3. Inrap. 4. EPHE, Saprat.

Scientific Committee

  • Mathieu ARNOUX, Université Paris Diderot, EHESS
  • Marie-Christine BAILLY-MAÎTRE, CNRS, LA3M
  • Philippe BERNARDI, Lamop, Université Paris 1
  • Marc BOONE, Universiteit Gent
  • Caroline BOURLET, IRHT
  • Ricardo CÓRDOBA DE LA LLAVE, Universidad de Córdoba
  • Matthew DAVIES, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Maxime L’HÉRITIER, Université Paris 8
  • Catherine VERNA, Université Paris 8


  • Paris, France (75)


  • Friday, March 15, 2019

Attached files


  • métallurgie, archéométrie, villes, travail, techniques, réseaux, réglementations


  • Lise Saussus
    courriel : colloquehtm2019 [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Lise Saussus
    courriel : colloquehtm2019 [at] gmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Craftsmen and metalworking in medieval cities: 35 years later », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, December 26, 2018, https://doi.org/10.58079/11l4

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