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Ray Powell

Most of the paper is taken up with establishing the credibility of the skills of the enslaved workers and why the repurposing of the scrap iron was of symbolic importance to them.

John Reeder made it clear that that scrap iron was being processed at the foundry and not locally produced pig iron, “plantation iron”.  Bundles of heated iron rods were passed through grooved rolls to produce bar iron. I, too, have looked for information on the net about sugar cane rolls as I had no previous knowledge of them.  There are photos of modern rolls which have circumferential grooves. I feel that some kinds of sugar cane rolls cannot be dismissed as offering no advantage over flat rolls given the statements about their successful use.

Henry Cort could not make money out of his contract with the Admiralty unless he could make use of the scrap iron which the Admiralty had supplied in part payment  for his work. Existing processes for doing this were costly and information about what was being done in Jamaica. would have been useful to him. However it is conjectural that this information flow actually happened. It would be interesting to see the full version of what Mott wrote rather than the abridged versio0n that was published.

It is stated in the paper that “these Black metallurgists developed one of the most important innovations of the industrial revolution for their
own purposes”. This is too strong a claim but their efforts should not be ignored whether or not Cort learned what had been done. Nothing done in Jamaica was relevant to the puddling of pig iron which Cort describes in his second patent..  This is the process which became  extremely important although it took workers at Merthyr Tydfil considerable experimentation to turn Cort’s idea into a workable process.

Jenny Bulstrode’s paper was published Open Access. This makes it more accessible although the mention in the Guardian and New Scientist helped. When I looked it had been viewed 1750 times.  I see that the article on Henry Cort  in Wikipedia was almost immediately updated to include the claim that he knew about what had been done in Jamaica. The article has been updated again to say that the connection to Jamaica has only been hypothesised but it is being accepted by others. One example is an article on the 8th July in The News, a local paper for the Portsmouth area. it says “Councillor Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, described the findings as ‘the industrial espionage of its day’. ‘It looks like he stole the technology from 76 Jamaican slaves,’ he said”.

I am glad that the HMS has adopted Platinum Open Access so that the Journal’s contents make available  an authoritative source of information to a wider audience.