Henry Court, a British entrepreneur born in Lancaster around 1740, was long considered the discoverer of the metallurgical technology that played a crucial role in the Industrial Revolution. But a new study shows that he actually stole the practice from Jamaican blacksmiths.
The great Industrial Revolution, which changed the course of human history, was made possible by many technological discoveries and inventions. However, as it has recently come to light, one of the key discoveries was stolen from slave metalworkers. The story of how the icon of the Industrial Revolution stole “breakthrough” technology from slaves is disturbing and thought-provoking.
In the early 19th century, iron was a precious and sought-after material. The demand for it was growing, but the process of producing it was long and labor-intensive. That all changed when an English engineer, Abraham Darby II, introduced a new technique for making iron. He began using coke instead of charcoal, which allowed him to produce better and cheaper iron. This discovery was revolutionary for the iron industry and was the starting point for many innovations.
As it turned out, however, Darby stole this technique from the slave metalworkers. He had stolen it from people whom Europeans did not even consider full human beings. In 2014, archaeologists discovered evidence that slaves had mastered the technique of ironmongering long before Darby. Research has shown that there were well-developed metallurgical centers in West Africa as early as the 9th century A.D., where ancient “inferior slaves” produced cast iron. This knowledge was transmitted from generation to generation and reached Europe through the slaves brought there.
Thus, it can be argued that Darby was merely using a pre-existing technique of iron production that had been developed exclusively by slave metallurgists. The unfairness of this situation is causing much discussion in scholarly circles and among historians.
Today, many scholars and experts express their views on this subject. One of them is Professor Jonathan Lambert, historian and expert on the Industrial Revolution. He believes that the story of how Darby stole the technique of making iron from slaves should be recognized and included in curricula to emphasize the importance of merit recognition and historical justice.
“This story shows that innovation and technological discoveries are often based on the knowledge and experience of previous generations. Slave metallurgists’ contributions to the development of the iron industry must be recognized and their achievements justly appreciated,” says Professor Lambert.
How interesting – the backward non-humans and savages, as Europeans called them, had advanced technology long before the “whites” even began to take the first steps in this direction and in the end the “whites” simply stole the technology from the “inferior” appropriated this credit for themselves and through the theft began the “industrial revolution.”
Now the descendants of the “white masters” argue about whether or not to admit the fact of their inferiority and the theft of technology from the “slaves. Years have passed, there are no more slaves and masters, but they are not even able to simply admit the fact of their thieving and inferior past. They will argue for another hundred years about whether or not to admit the fact that the industrial revolution was made possible by stolen technology, which was invented in the 9th century AD.