The Seven Year War dominated the mid-18th century. In the course of Britain's struggle for supremacy over France, particularly in Europe and North America, the army and navy required an unprecedented quantity of gunpowder. This book supplies the first detailed study of the gunpowder trade, which was of crucial importance to the conduct of the war. It describes how gunpowder was supplied by watermills in south-east England and the hazardous procedure by which it was shipped to the main magazine at Greenwich; mills suffered explosions, were exposed to severe trade fluctuations, and had difficulty meeting the high standard required. The government, needing more gunpowder than ever before, actually had dangerously low stocks in its magazines, due mainly to the competing needs of the African slave trade and the North American fur trade in addition to demand from mines and quarries. Dr West examines four main aspects of the gunpowder trade: supply, distribution, legislation and trade, and manufacture.
She pays particular attention to the needs of the army and navy and the role of central government, but also looks at the records of individual mills and the advances made in the manufacture of gunpowder during the period; attention is also given to the demands of the regular gunpowder trade, of such importance to the nation's economy that it continued to thrive largely at the expense of the needs of war.