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Guilds

GUILDS

GUILDS. The guild, a formal organization of craftspeople, held an important place in a theoretical system of order called corporatism that emerged in the late Middle Ages in Europe and survived until the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Medieval guilds began as devotional and mutual aid societies, but by the early modern period they had become identified with governance as well as with the regulation of economic activities. Guild masters responded to indiscipline in the workplace by drafting statutes or guild bylaws. Municipalities, and eventually monarchs, sanctioned these statutes for a fee, oversaw their enforcement by imposing fines for transgressions, and increasingly conferred legal status upon the guilds.

Corporatism laid out organizing principles that shaped social, political, and economic organization, embracing the concept of paternalism and restricting competition to preserve the livelihood of artisans and channel quality goods, fairly priced, to the consuming public. In keeping with these principles, monopoly over the manufacture and sale of particular items was a privilege widely protected by guild statutes. Statutes also frequently regulated the labor supply to reduce competition among masters, restricting the allowable number of journeymen a master might employ.

Guilds also had a social function. Membership placed an artisanmaster, journeyman, apprentice, or widowin the finely graded hierarchy that structured Old Regime society. Such a system was equally a power structure, and distinction and difference issued from a concern among male masters for subordination of inferiors, be they journeymen, apprentices, wageworkers, or women. Numerous provisions in guild statutes throughout Europe focused on status, above all by strictly regulating the access of workers to the corporation and to mastership within it. They also increasingly excluded women. Escalating fees, extended periods of apprenticeship, and the continuing refinement of masterpieces all pointed to a mounting preoccupation with discipline and a growing hierarchization in the world of work; the barriers between male and female, master and journeyman (that is, a worker with some institutional claim to guild membership), and journeyman and nonguild worker (those with no guild membership whatsoever) were being raised higher than ever before. Master guildsmen and the political authorities shared these values of institutionalization, and their common interests came together in the formulation of the corporate regime, enshrined in part in guild statutes.

EXPANSION OF THE GUILD REGIME

Guilds proliferated throughout Europe from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries; in some places such as Sweden and Austria the high point was reached in the eighteenth century. The fifteenth century was a time of corporate expansion in most French towns, and the sixteenth century witnessed a similar development in the towns of the southern Netherlands and England, where expansion continued into the seventeenth century. The towns of the new United Provinces in the northern Netherlands, for example, had few guilds before the seventeenth century, but by 1700 there were about two thousand. The German "home towns" of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuriespolities that were relatively independent of external political authority and held between one thousand and five thousand inhabitantsepitomize the early modern European guild system. The guilds in these locations were political, economic, and social entities. All possessed statutes that stipulated, as elsewhere, the nature and duration of apprentice training, regulations for recruitment of workers and their distribution among the shops of the town, and monopolies. Guild masters enforced these rules with the sanctioning of the municipality. Regulating economic competition had the higher goal, however, of securing community peace and maintaining the social order. This order was rooted in social position defined by Ehrbarkeit or 'honorable status'. Guild masters everywhere, not just in the home towns, possessed this quality, characterized by "the respect of the respected," and jealously guarded it, for it defined one's exclusive position at the upper levels of society.

GUILDS AND ECONOMIC REGULATION

Determining the role that regulation played in economic practice has formed the research agenda of many historians of the early modern period, and the function of guilds is a central concern in this inquiry. Guilds were empowered and enjoined by municipal, ducal, ecclesiastical, or royal governments to regulate the economyworkshop inspections and access to courts are evidence of this. Many instances of artisans' workshops being searched for illegal materials or unacceptable workmanship can be cited, as can examples of litigation between guilds over encroachment of monopolies. The high-water mark of regulation came in the late seventeenth century and is best illustrated by the policies of the French finance minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert (16191683) and his immediate successors. Between 1673 and 1714 in France, the crown enacted 450 règlements, or rulings, on manufacture, and another 500 on the policing of the guilds and on jurisdictions between them. Similar regulatory policies were imitated by nearly every state in eighteenth-century Europe.

Historians have long been aware of this regulatory system but only recently have they probed its actual impact on economic activity. Indeed, historians now point to overwhelming evidence that reveals that in many places, normal economic practice was largely beyond regulation, as it comprised a flexible and spontaneous mixture of licit and illicit activity in production, distribution, and consumption. The early modern craft economy was too dynamic to be contained by regulation, since illegal activities such as operating multiple shops, smuggling, unlicensed peddling, and clandestine workers working outside of guilds proliferated. In 1748 in Amsterdam, for instance, nonguild workersboth male and femalewere making more clothes than master tailors.

So what can we conclude about guild regulation and the craft economy? Certainly guilds did not suffocate the free-market economy. The regulatory regime, however, was not totally ineffective or irrelevant. Rather, it was extremely flexible, responding to the various needs of artisans and governments. There were different kinds of markets in the early modern economy, and regulation fit differently in them. There was the sprawling, heterogeneous, and unregulated clandestine and illegal craft economy. Alongside this economy there was the licensed one, but even here within the official organization of the guild we find ample room for flexibility and economic growth. Indeed, within this official, "regulated" structure, masters of the same guild competed with one another, even inviting regulation of their products as a form of advertising their quality precisely so that they could have an advantage over fellow guildsmen.

FROM CORPORATISM TO LIBERALISM: THE END OF GUILDS

Corporatism and guilds were embodied in most polities of early modern Europe. Guilds were simultaneously empowered by political authorities and rendered vulnerable to them, and so if these political authorities abandoned corporatism, guilds would disappear. In the eighteenth century, corporatism was increasingly challenged by a rival system, liberalism, and as governments came to embrace the principles of free trade and unregulated markets, corporatism was eventually displaced. Such a displacement, however, was hardly rapid or unconflicted. There was considerable ambivalence within the ranks of political authority about just what liberalism was and how it might be implemented. An episode involving the French controller general of finance, Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot (17271781), illustrates this confusion. Turgot attempted to abolish the guilds in February 1776 and was abruptly dismissed in May. An advocate of free trade and therefore an opponent of the regulatory corporate regime, he saw guilds as impediments to growth in the French economy and asserted that abolishing them would liberate commercial and industrial activity. Turgot, however, was not thinking in simply narrow economic terms; nor were his opponents, the staunch defenders of corporatism. Both parties were fundamentally concerned with preserving social order, but equally fundamentally disagreed on how best to secure such order. Turgot sought to replace what he thought was the unnatural and stultifying hierarchy of corporatism with a natural and free one, and so he had no sympathy for his opponents, who clamored that his edict would dissolve the bonds of subordination and invite anarchy. Turgot assumed that masters and workers would form natural hierarchical relationships in the marketplace, that the natural law of the market would maintain order. Corporatists countered that Turgot's natural hierarchy was a dangerous illusion, and because the principle of incorporation linked all of France in a chain that led directly to the throne, to sever one link (as with the abolition of the guilds) would cut the chain and ultimately destroy the entire system and even the monarchy itself.

Turgot lost the battle, but liberalism eventually won the war. Over the long run liberalism did prove corrosive to corporatism in general and to guilds in particular, as attested by the liberal-inspired legislation in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries abolishing guilds all across Europe. The assault on corporations may have been largely inspired by demands for free trade and unregulated markets, but guilds were more than simply economic entities; rather, they were a fundamental unit of the entire early modern system of social representation and social control. Their dissolution, therefore, had widely felt cultural ramifications. As guilds disappeared, the very nature of the artisanry, and the identity of the artisan, was redefined.

See also Artisans ; Liberalism, Economic ; Proto-Industry .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Black, Antony. Guilds and Civil Society in European Political Thought from the Twelfth Century to the Present. Ithaca, N.Y., 1984.

Chevalier, Bernard. "Corporations, conflits politiques et paix sociale en France aux XIVe et XVe siècles." Revue historique 268 (1982):1744.

Crossick, Geoffrey, ed. The Artisan and the European Town, 15001900. Aldershot, U.K., 1997.

Farr, James R. Artisans in Europe, 13001914. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 2000.

Kaplan, Steven L. The Bakers of Paris and the Bread Question, 17001775. Durham, N.C., 1996.

Mackenney, Richard. Tradesmen and Traders: The World of the Guilds in Venice and Europe, c. 1250c. 1650. Totowa, N.J., 1987.

Prothero, I. J. Artisans and Politics in Early Nineteenth- Century London: John Gast and His Times. Baton Rouge, La., 1979.

Sewell, William H., Jr. Work and Revolution in France: The Language of Labor from the Old Regime to 1848. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1980.

James R. Farr

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guilds

guilds or gilds, economic and social associations of persons engaging in the same business or craft, typical of Western Europe in the Middle Ages. Membership was by profession or craft, and the primary function was to establish local control over that profession or craft by setting standards of workmanship and price, by protecting the business from competition, and by establishing status in society for members of the guild. In the Western world today the term guild is used for certain associations that have little connection with the medieval institution. Some of the great professional associations (e.g., in medicine and law) fulfill some of the functions of the old guilds but are rarely given that name.

Medieval European Guilds

By the 11th cent. in Europe, associations of merchants had begun to form for the protection of commerce against the feudal governments. Those merchant guilds became extremely powerful as trade in the Mediterranean and across Europe increased. Some of the Italian merchant guilds, such as those in Genoa and Florence, became dominant in local government. In England and in Germany the merchant guilds also exercised enormous power in the growing towns. Commerce was becoming less and less a local affair, and the guilds in some cases developed into intercity leagues for the promotion and protection of trade. The most striking example was the Hanseatic League of N Europe, which established and controlled some of its own trading cities. The merchant guilds had vast influence in the development of commerce during that period.

No less important were the craft guilds, the associations of artisans of a particular industry, e.g., the weavers guild. These grew with great rapidity as towns developed in the 12th cent. and tended to share power with the merchants or even, in some cases, to supplant them in power. Generally the members were divided into masters, apprentices, and journeymen. The masters were the owners of the shops and instructors of the apprentices. The apprentices were bound to the masters; they were accepted for a stipulated sum paid to the masters for training and were given a subsistence wage for a number of years; the amount paid and the length of time varied from one craft to another and one place to another. The apprentices were strictly under the control of the masters, but the conditions of control were set by guild regulation. The journeymen were men who had finished their training as apprentices but could not attain the status of masters, the number of masters being limited.

The guild reflected a predilection for ordering society. Each guild set the terms of its craft: the forms of labor, standard of product, and methods of sale. With the rise of nationalism in the West, those things were increasingly subject to royal and national law. The relationship of the feudal ruler to the guilds was ideally one of cooperation. Actually the wealthy guilds were able to gain some immunity from interference by noble or king either by paying them large sums of money or by intimidating them. Sometimes, as in the weaving towns of Flanders, the guilds led revolts against feudal authority (e.g., in Bruges and Ghent). The tendency in the industrial towns was for the guilds to assume dominance in municipal government, and traces of that control have persisted in the local governments of Western Europe. The guilds of London (see livery companies) had wide social obligations and prominence in the city government.

The strengthening of the power of nations in the 15th and 16th cent. tended to increase royal power, and the king in some instances was able to reduce the guilds to subservience. The improvement of communications, the expansion of trade, with the introduction of foreign-made goods, and finally the appearance of the capitalist and the entrepreneur hastened the end of the guild system. The guilds, with their rigorous controls and emphasis on stability and quality, were not equipped to cope with the expanding production of a more capitalistic age. They tended to guard their monopolies jealously and to oppose change.

As time went on, the guild system became increasingly rigid, and the trend toward hereditary membership grew very marked. Thus the development of new trade and industry fell to the capitalists, who adapted themselves to new demands in an age of exploration and expansion. By the 17th cent. the power of the guilds had withered in England, and their privileges were officially abolished in 1835. In France the guilds were abolished (1791) in the French Revolution. The German and Austrian guilds were abolished in the 19th cent. as were those in the Italian cities. In Eastern Europe guilds grew numerous in the great market cities, and the power of some long persisted, notably in Novgorod and Kraków.

Other Guilds

Guildlike organizations of merchants and artisans have been known at various times in many parts of the world. Greek merchants' associations were of considerable significance in both the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Under the Roman Empire each provincial city had, as did Rome, its various collegia (some of which were clubs as well as economic guilds); Constantinople later had its efficiently organized corpora. Those guilds were continued in the East and in some of the cities of Italy, where they persisted at least until the 10th cent. Their effect on the creation of medieval guilds is debatable. Some scholars have found the origin of guilds in the old tribal or religious guilds of the Germans.

Elsewhere in the world associations of merchants and of artisans developed and followed a pattern similar to that of the medieval European guilds, flourishing as protective devices or as regulatory instruments of the state. The guilds of the Muslim Middle East developed in the 9th cent. and persisted into the 20th cent., although they never attained the political influence equivalent of those of medieval Europe. In India guilds were highly developed before the time of the Maurya empire, and they continued in existence long after British control was established. The history of the Indian guilds was closely tied in with the caste system. The guilds in Japan were opposed and weakened by the stronger medieval rulers, but they were later used as powerful regulatory devices; they were swept away in the Meiji restoration in 1868. Chinese guilds of unknown antiquity persisted as powerful bodies into the 20th cent.

Bibliography

See C. Gross, The Gild Merchant (1890, repr. 1964); L. F. Salzman, English Industries of the Middle Ages (new ed. 1964); H. Sée, Economic and Social Conditions in France during the Eighteenth Century (tr. 1927, repr. 1968); S. Kramer, The English Craft Gilds (1927); H. B. Morse, The Gilds of China (2d ed. 1932, repr. 1967); G. Unwin, Gilds and Companies of London (4th ed. 1963); G. Clune, The Medieval Gild System (1943); R. Mackenney, Tradesmen and Traders: The World of the Guilds in Venice and Europe (1987).

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"guilds." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Guilds

GUILDS

Organizations of skilled workers or artisans.

The earliest evidence for workers in Middle Eastern urban trades and crafts associating in guilds for their common economic and social benefit dates from the fourteenth century, though there are hints of looser groupings before that time. The Ottoman and Safavid Empires and the kingdom of Morocco developed extensive guild systems with each guild being self-governing through a hierarchy of ranks. Government approval or oversight, variously expressed, kept them from being totally independent, however. The goal of the guilds was to ensure a stable level of production and an equitable distribution of work among guild members. The guilds thus constituted a generally conservative force disinclined to change with evolving economic conditions. Nevertheless, they were often important foci of communal and religious life for their members, as in annual guild-organized commemorations of the martyrdom of Imam Husayn by Shiʿites in Iran. The terms used for guilds include sinf (category), taʾifa (group), jamaʿa (society), and hirfa (craft). Guilds were commonly subjected to collective taxation administered by the market inspector (muhtasib) or other government official. Jews and Christians were members of guilds in some cities, but exclusively Christian or Jewish guilds, like that of the kosher butchers of Aleppo, were rare.

Records of the city of Aleppo mention 157 guilds in the middle of the eighteenth century. Cairo had 106 in 1814. The survival of guilds in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries varied according to country and rate of Westernization. In northern Egypt, for example, guilds had virtually disappeared by the end of the nineteenth century because of the influx of mass-produced European goods and the growing market for labor created by European investment. By contrast, the guilds of Fez in Morocco escaped severe crisis until the worldwide depression of the 1930s. Even so, municipal statistics of 1938 show the continued domination of small-scale craftwork. The largest guild, that of the slipper-makers, counted 7,100 members, 2,840 of them employers. There were also 800 tanners, 280 of them employers; and 1,700 weavers, of whom 520 were employers. Altogether the guilds numbered 11,000 members.

The potential for guild political activity had manifested itself from time to time over the centuries, as in occasional revolts by workers in the food trades in Cairo at the end of the eighteenth century. By the time modern political life focused on constitutions and participatory government developed, however, economic forces had diminished the importance of guilds in most areas. Iran, where guilds survive to the present day, provides an exception because of its comparatively late exposure to economic and political influences from Europe. The guilds formed the most cohesive group in the Constitutional Revolution of 1906. In Tehran, separate guilds formed seventy political societies (anjoman). The guild leaders lacked a sophisticated understanding of politics, however, so the guilds found themselves barred from political power by the electoral law of 1909. With the advent of the Pahlavi regime in 1926, 230 guilds lost government recognition as corporate entities in an effort to dissipate the coalescence of popular feeling around them; but

because the new system of individual taxation proved unworkable, they regained their status in 1948. Many guild members were drawn to the communist Tudeh Party or to the movements led by Mohammad Mossadegh, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and other critics of the monarchy. In 1969 the 110 guilds of Tehran had a membership of about 120,000. Guild members played an important role in the demonstrations that led to the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

See also anjoman; constitutional revolution; khomeini, ruhollah; mossadegh, mohammad; pahlavi, reza; tudeh party.


Bibliography

Lawson, Fred H. The Social Origins of Egyptian Expansionism during the Muhammad Ali Period. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.

Marcus, Abraham. The Middle East on the Eve of Modernity: Aleppo in the Eighteenth Century. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.

richard w. bulliet

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Guilds

GUILDS

Organizations of merchants in groups called a "hundred" (sto or sotnya ) existed in medieval Novgorod and in Muscovy. The first organization of merchants in guilds (gildy; singular gildia ) occurred in December 1724, when Peter I divided the urban population into a first guild, composed of wealthy merchants, doctors, pharmacists, ship captains, painters, and the like; a second guild, comprising retail traders and artisans; and all others, called the "common people."

Although the word guild was borrowed from medieval European practice, guilds in Russia had purely administrative functions: to categorize merchants according to the extent of their economic activities and to collect fees from them. Merchants also bore heavy responsibilities of unpaid state service, such as tax collection and service on municipal boards, law courts, and other local institutions.

A decree issued on January 19, 1742, specified three merchant guilds. In a decree of March 17, 1775, Catherine II freed merchants from the soul tax and set 500 rubles of declared capital as the minimum requirement for enrollment in the merchant estate, subject to the payment of 1 percent of declared capital each year. A law issued on May 25, 1775, set specific minimum amounts: 10,000 rubles for the first guild, 1,000 rubles for the second, and 500 rubles for the third. In her Charter to the Cities, promulgated on April 21, 1785, Catherine II increased the minimum capital requirements to 5,000 rubles for the second guild and 1,000 rubles for the third. By abolishing the merchants' former monopoly on trade and industry, Catherine allowed the gentry and serfs to engage in ruinous competition with the merchants, free of the annual guild payment. Many enterprising merchants fled this precarious situation by rising into the gentry. The merchant estate therefore remained small and weak.

In 1839 a first-guild certificate, costing 600 rubles, entitled a merchant with at least 15,000 rubles in assets to own ships and factories, to offer banking services, and to trade in Russia and abroad. Second-guild certificates, sold for 264 rubles, entitled merchants whose stated wealth surpassed 6,000 rubles to manage factories and engage in wholesale or retail trade in Russia. Members of the third guild were permitted to conduct retail trade in the city or district where they resided, provided they owned assets worth 2,4006,000 rubles and purchased certificates costing 1.25 percent of the declared amount.

The third guild was abolished in 1863 and a new fee structure established, but the link between largescale economic activity and membership in the merchant estate was already dissolving. Laws issued in 1807, 1863, and 1865 allowed non-merchants engaged in manufacturing and wholesale commerce to enroll in a merchant guild while maintaining their membership in another social estate as well. From 1863 onward, anyone, regardless of social status or even citizenship, could create and manage a corporation. Still, many industrialists and traders enrolled in merchant guilds, as their fathers and grandfathers had done, to demonstrate their commitment to a group identity separate from the gentry.

See also: capitalism; charter of the cities; merchants; russia company

bibliography

Baron, Samuel H. (1980). Muscovite Russia: Collected Essays. London: Variorum.

Bushkovitch, Paul. (1980). The Merchants of Moscow, 15801650. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Hittle, J. Michael. (1979). The Service City: State and Townsmen in Russia, 16001800. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Thomas C. Owen

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guilds

guilds. The guild was one of the most characteristic organizations of the later medieval period and an instrument of local urban monopoly control operated by a particular craft or by the market guild, which was the commercial guise of the local administration. Major towns had specialized guilds for different trades and London had a great variety of both mercantile guilds, such as grocers, goldsmiths, and vintners, and manufacturers like tailors and saddlers. The purpose of the guild was to regulate the local market. This took the form of control of the price and quality of goods. In Leicester, where the local wool trade was particularly important, guild restrictions were intended to retain as much of the business as possible in the hands of local merchants. Outsiders could not buy wool in the town and could only sell to members of the guild. Weavers were prevented from working at night since poor lighting would diminish the quality of workmanship. The guild also limited production and ensured that each individual member secured a fair share of the available business. Recruitment and employment were also limited through entry fines, a preference for the sons of existing members, or apprenticeships which could last for seven years. Membership conferred substantial advantages. Members of Southampton's guild were exempt from local tolls and customs and enjoyed the right of the first option to purchase goods brought to the town. Non-members were prevented from buying certain commodities including honey, herring, oil, or skins, from keeping a tavern, and could only sell cloth on market or fair days. Guilds were characteristic of an economic system, under threat from population decline and competition from unregulated rural industry, in which established interests sought to protect themselves through the maintenance of a monopoly.

Clive H. Lee

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guilds

guilds (gilds) Medieval trade associations which sought to regulate trade and to protect the interests of employers and which in some countries survive vestigially as curious gentlemen's clubs. The nineteenth-century view that they could be seen as precursors of trade unions is now seldom advanced. Guild Socialism proposed industrial unions which were to manage major industries.

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