Review of Volumes I and II
from Black Powder, The Official Journal of the Muzzle Loaders' Association of Great Britain, Vol.44 (1997) p.65.

By Peter Jacques (President, MLAGB).

This remarkable work, written by David Harding, is the result of twenty year's research into the archives of the East India Company, both in Britain and India, and these first two volumes comprise over a thousand pages, beautifully printed and with more than three hundred excellent photographs and one hundred line drawings. These large books are impressively bound in red cloth with gold lettering, and are enclosed in their own matching slip case, which is perhaps an unnecessary conceit, as in my case once the books had been withdrawn the contents were so riveting that they have remained on the table ready for perusal at every spare moment.

Volume I deals with the procurement of the arms, how they were designed and manufactured, and by whom, and deals extensively with the method of quality control from early haphazard beginnings to the reign of the incredibly efficient Colonel Bonner, who, as Inspector of Military stores from 1832, seemingly made only one small mistake in his thirty years in the job. Following a deputation from the gunmakers requesting a further eight pence per musket on a contract because the workmen had gone on strike, he agreed to this, but inadvertently omitted to include fusils in his letter of acceptance - the gunmakers had to point this out, and Bonner admitted his error and acceded.

The history of how the Company formed its relationship with the gun trade, sticking rigidly to a fair quota system between its contractors, is fascinating, and is dealt with extensively in this first volume. Government contracts were hastily offered when war was imminent, but just as quickly subsided in the ensuing peace, but the Company's contracts were regular and ongoing, and it also paid promptly, so the gun trade manufacturing military arms survived during these lean periods. In fact, when the Napoleonic wars broke out the Ordnance was unable to place orders for guns as the Company's contracts engaged the whole of the trade's current output, and an agreement with the Company was made to transfer their manufacture to the government, which purchased 162,000 arms from the Company during that conflict. Many intriguing details of the social scene among the outworkers are also recounted, particularly that of the lock-filers in Darlaston, who were supplied with the forgings by their possibly unscrupulous `Master' and filed them up at home, probably completing one lock per day, for which, during the war, they were paid 5/6d. During the peace, however, this mount was reduced to 1/11d and the lock-filers to penury. The contractors who employed the filers were, in many cases, general dealers, and they further introduced `the truck system' which involved payment in kind, leaving the unfortunate workers to sell these goods at a loss for cash to pay the rent. The Company was petitioned to help these unfortunates, but declined, and in the Author's words: "philanthropy took second place to pragmatism."

Volume II gives specific details, dimensions, drawings and photographs of 100 patterns of EIC smallarms, together with ownership, view, and contractors' marks and relevant dates, with all the information needed to date and identify the makers of any EIC gun. Details and prices of 260 shipments of matchlocks and flintlocks 1600-c1750 and statistical appendices on the more than two million smallarms procured c1753-1856. There will never be another book on this subject after the final two volumes are published - no more could be said.

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