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Alum, More Precious than Gold (Hardback)

The Amazing Influence and Trade of Alum Across the Ages

P&S History > Reference P&S History > Social History World History

By Sydney Thorne
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 232
Illustrations: 20 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781036101084
Published: 30th June 2024


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Never heard of alum? You’re not alone.

Yet, for centuries, alum was vital to the production of coloured cloth. Alum was needed to fix dyes and colours to the cloth. Without alum, the colours ran and faded. With alum, they shone and were fast. As a result, as the Italian scientist Vanoccio Biringucci put it in the 16th century, alum was as ‘essential to dyers as bread is to man’. Corner the market in alum, and you could make a fortune.

Manufactured from a rock called alunite that was mined in China, Egypt and Turkey, alum contributed to the fabulous wealth of the Chinese emperors, the Pharaohs, the Byzantines and the Ottomans. A prized commodity in international trade, alum funded the opulence of Genoa, Bruges and late Renaissance Rome. Henry VII cannily exploited it, but it nearly ruined Elizabeth I.

But alum also allowed crooks to make debased coins and to adulterate bread, and was at the heart of one of the most spectacular bankruptcy scandals of the 18th century. And the Black Death used the shipping routes of the alum trade to spread through Europe.

In this fascinating and eminently readable book, Sydney Thorne has picked out quirky and exciting stories of alum that range across the centuries and across the world, shedding new light on topics ranging from the slave trade to female entrepreneurs while re-discovering a fully-fledged industrial complex on the Yorkshire that was thriving two hundred years before the industrial revolution.

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About Sydney Thorne

Sydney Thorne holds an MA (Oxon) in Modern Languages and has taught languages in England and at the University of Augsburg in Germany. Since 1991 he has been a full-time author of school text books, and currently writes English language books for schools in Germany. His interest in the story of Mary Ward dates back to 1982, and his passion has grown over the eight years or so in which he has been writing her story. Sydney has travelled widely in Europe, and has personally visited many of the key locations in Mary Ward’s life.

Perfect Partner

Mary Ward: First Sister of Feminism (Hardback)

Almost exactly 400 years ago, an English woman completed an astonishing walk to Rome. An English Catholic, Mary Ward had already defied the authorities in England. In 1621 she walked across Europe to ask the Pope to allow her to set up schools for girls. 'There is no such difference between men and women that women may not do great things,' she said. But Mary’s vision of equality between men and women angered the Catholic Church and the Pope threw her into prison. This is a story just waiting to be told! The story shines a refreshingly new light on the popular Tudor/Stuart era. Mary’s uncles…

By Sydney Thorne

Click here to buy both titles for £32.59
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