Guilds were voluntary associations for religious, social, and commercial purposes. These associations, which attained their highest development among the Teutonic nations, especially the English, during the Middle Ages, were of four kinds:

  1. religious guilds,
  2. frith guilds,
  3. merchant guilds, and
  4. craft guilds.

The word itself, less commonly, but more correctly, written gild, was derived from the Anglo-Saxon gildan meaning "to pay", whence came the noun gegilda, "the subscribing member of a guild". In its origin the word guild is found in the sense of "idol" and also of "sacrifice", which has led some writers to connect the origin of the guilds with the sacrificial assemblies and banquets of the heathen Germanic tribes. Brentano, the first to investigate the question thoroughly, associating these facts with the importance of family relationship among Teutonic nations, considers that the guild in its earliest form was developed from the family, and that the spirit of association, being congenial to Christianity, was so fostered by the Church that the institution and development of the guilds progressed rapidly. This theory finds more favour with recent scholars than the attempts to trace the guilds back to the Roman collegia. The connexion or identity of the guilds with the Carlovingian geldoniœ or confratriœ cannot be ascertained, for lack of definite information about these latter institutions, which were discouraged by the legislation of Charlemagne.


The earliest traces of guilds in England are found in the laws of Ina in the seventh century. These guilds were formed for religious and social purposes and were voluntary in character. Subsequent enactments down to the time of Athelstan (925-940) show that they soon developed into frith guilds or peace guilds, associations with a corporate responsibility for the good conduct of their members and their mutual liability. Very frequently, as in the case of London in early times, the guild law came to be the law of the town. The main objects of these guilds was the preservation of peace, right, and liberty. Religious observances also formed an important part of guild-life, and the members assisted one another both in spiritual and temporal necessities. The oldest extant charter of a guild dates from the reign of Canute, and from this we learn that a certain Orcy presented a guild-hall (gegyld-halle) to the gyldschipe of Abbotsbury in Dorset, and that the members were associated in almsgiving, care of the sick, burial of the dead, and in providing Masses for the souls of deceased members. The social side of the guild is shown in the annual feast for which provision is made. In the "Dooms of London" we find the same religious and social practices described, with the addition of certain advantageous commercial arrangements, such as the establishment of a kind of insurance-fund against losses, and the furnishing of assistance in the capture of thieves. These provisions, however, are characteristic rather of the merchant guilds which grew up during the latter half of the eleventh century.

Merchant Guilds

These differed from their predecessors, the religious or frith guilds, by being established primarily for the purpose of obtaining and maintaining the privilege of carrying on trade. Having secured this privilege the guilds guarded their monopoly jealously. Everywhere the right to buy and sell articles of food seems to have been left free, but every other branch of trade was regulated by the merchant guild or hanse, as it was often called. The first positive mention of a merchant guild, the "enighten on Cantwareberig of ceapmannegilde", occurs during the primacy of St. Anselm (1093-1109). From the time of Henry I the charters of successive sovereigns bear witness to the existence of merchant guilds in the principal towns. These charters, such as those granted to Bristol, Carlisle, Durham, Lincoln, Oxford, Salisbury, and Southampton, were of the utmost importance to the guilds as they secured to them the right and power of enforcing the guild regulations with the sanction of law. For this reason Glanvill, the lawyer, writing in the twelfth century, regards the guild merchant as identical with the commune, that is, the body of citizens with rights of municipal self-government (Ashley, op. cit., inf., 72). From the fact that out of one hundred and sixty towns which were represented in the parliaments of Edward I, ninety-two are certainly known to have possessed a merchant guild, the conclusion is drawn that a guild was to be found in every town of any size, including some that were not much more than villages.

The organization of the merchant guilds is known from the constitutions or guild rolls which have survived. These documents are only four in number, but fortunately refer to towns in four different parts of England. They are the guild statutes of Berwick and of Southampton, and the guild rolls for Leicester and Totnes (Ashley, p. 67). From these we learn that each guild was presided over by one or two aldermen assisted by two or four wardens or échevins. These officials presided over the meetings of the society and administered its funds and estates. They were assisted by a council of twelve or twenty-four members. The guildsmen were originally the actual burgesses, those inhabitants who held land within the town boundaries, whether they were merchants or holders of agricultural land; but in course of time rights of membership passed by inheritance and even by purchase. Thus the eldest sons of guildsmen were admitted free as of right, while the younger sons paid a smaller fee than others. The guildsmen could sell their rights, and heiresses might exercise their membership either in person or through their husbands or sons.

The merchant guilds possessed extensive powers, including the control and monopoly of all the trades in the town, which involved the power of fining all traders who were not members of the guild for illicit trading, and of inflicting punishment for all breaches of honesty or offences against the regulations of the guild. They also had liberty of trading in other towns and of protecting their guildsmen wherever they were trading. They exercised supervision over the quality of goods sold, and prevented strangers from directly or indirectly buying or selling to the injury of the guild. Besides these commercial advantages the guild entered largely into the life of all its members. The guildsmen took their part as a corporate body in all religious celebrations in the town, organized festivities, provided for sick or impoverished brethren, undertook the care of their orphan children, and provided for Masses and dirges for deceased members. As time went on the merchant guilds became more exclusive, and when the rise of manufactures in the twelfth century caused an increase in the number of craftsmen, it was natural that these should organize on their own account and form their own guilds.

Craft Guilds

Seeing that the merchant guilds had become identical with the municipality, the craftsmen, ever increasing in numbers, struggled to break down the trading monopoly of the merchant guilds and to win for themselves the right of supervision over their own body. The weavers and fullers were the first crafts to obtain royal recognition of their guilds, and by 1130 they had guilds established in London, Lincoln, and Oxford. Little by little through the next two centuries they broke down the power of the merchant guilds, which received their death-blow by the statute of Edward III which in 1335 allowed foreign merchants to trade freely in England. In the system of craft guilds the administration lay in the hands of wardens, bailiffs, or masters, while for admission a long apprenticeship was necessary. Like the merchant guilds, the craft guilds cared for the interests both spiritual and temporal of their members, providing old age and sick pensions, pensions for widows, and burial funds. The master craftsman was an independent producer, needing little or no capital, and employing journeymen and apprentices who hoped in time to become master craftsmen themselves. Thus there was no "working class" as such, and no conflict between capital and labour. At the end of the reign of Edward III there were in London forty-eight companies, a number which later on rose to sixty. Besides the merchant and craft guilds, the religious and social guilds continued to exist through the Middle Ages, being largely in the nature of confraternities. At the Reformation these were all suppressed as superstitious foundations. The trade guilds survived as corporations or companies, such as the twelve great companies of London which still maintain a corporate existence for charitable and social purposes, though they have ceased to have close connexions with the crafts, the names of which they bear. The merchant guild of Preston also survives in a similar state, but such bodies have no real significance. The Reformation shook their constitution, while the altered industrial and social conditions finally deprived them of the power and influence they had possessed in the Middle Ages.


The word gilde, or ghilde, is but one of many terms used formerly in France and in the Low Countries to denote what the more modern word corporation stands for, viz., an association among men of the same community or profession. Gilde, métier, métier juré, confrérie, nation, maîtrises et jurandes, and other like appellations, all essentially express this idea of association, at the same time laying stress on some particular feature of it. The word gilde, however, is the first to appear and we meet it very early in the history of western continental Europe. A capitulary of 779 says: "Let no one dare to take the oath by which people are wont to form guilds. Whatever may be the conditions which have been agreed upon, let no one bind himself by oaths concerning the payment of contributions in case of fire or shipwreck." This prohibition appears several times in the laws enacted under the Carlovingian emperors; nevertheless the guilds continued to exist, at least in the northern part of the empire. The records of the provincial councils held in those districts also show that the guilds were a matter of no small concern for the ecclesiastical authorities; for a long time the Church was bent on extirpating from their organization a number of objectionable features which made them a menace to morals.

In France and the Low Countries a guild was originally a sort of fraternity for common support, protection, and amusement. The members paid each a certain contribution to the common fund; they pledged their word to give one another assistance; they took care of the children of the deceased members and had Masses offered up for the repose of their souls; they celebrated the patron saint's day with great festivities in which the poor had their share. These and other features of the guilds did not, of course, appear all at the same time. Like most human institutions they had a modest beginning, and they developed according to circumstances. Again, it should be noted that they do not everywhere present one and the same type. Some are mainly social, others emphasize the religious side of the organization, while, later on, in the merchant and craft guilds, it is the economic aspect which becomes predominant. Before speaking of the latter a word should be said of the origin of the guilds in the two countries with which we are concerned here. This has been a much debated question. Some scholars consider the guilds as the product in Christian soil, of the German instinct of association, and they would assign for their remotest origin the banquets (convivia) so common among the Teutons and Scandinavians. Others claim that they were nothing else than the Roman corporations (collegia) established in Western Europe under Roman sway and reconstructed on Christian principles after the great invasions. That the Roman colleges of artisans flourished in southern and central Gaul has been established beyond doubt by the discovery of numerous inscriptions at Nice, Nîmes, Narbonne, Lyons, and other cities. It is not likely that the Barbarian invasion broke entirely the Roman traditions in countries where the influence of Rome had been felt so deeply, and one is warranted in saying that in southern and central France the origin of the guilds was to a certain extent Roman. Such an assertion, however, could hardly be made for northern France and still less for the Low Countries. There is no evidence to show that the Roman collegia ever attained great importance in these regions. At any rate, the dominion of Rome was established there much later than in the South and was never so deep-rooted. Roman institutions and customs had scarcely had time to take root before the German invasion, and they must have given way very easily under the pressure of the conquerors, whose numbers, rapidly increasing, soon insured to them a preponderating influence.

But whether a legacy of Roman civilization or a native institution of the young Teutonic race, the guild would never have attained its wonderful development had not the Church taken it under its tutelage and infused into it the vivifying spirit of Christian charity. Furthermore, it is certain that a large number of guilds owed their existence solely to the aspirations which gave rise to chivalry and induced thousands of men to join the monastic communities. Towards the end of the tenth century, with the greater security following the Norman invasions, there was an increase of trade on the Continent. In each of the large towns, such as Rouen, Paris, Bruges, Arras, Saint-Omer, there soon arose a corporation which was known as the Merchant Guild and which was, in some instances at least, a development of an older association. None but the brethren of the corporation were allowed to trade in any article except food. Whether the communes (chartered towns) of France and the Low Countries had their origin in the Merchant Guild is a moot question, although it seems certain that the merchants were at least instrumental in the granting of charters by princes, for the right of managing its own affairs, conferred on the town, practically meant that its government fell into the hands of the trading class. At the origin of the Merchant Guild, any townsman might become a member of the corporation on payment of a stated fee, but with the increase of their wealth, the traders showed more and more a tendency to shut out the poorer classes from their association. The latter classes, however, were not without organization; they had their own corporations (the craft guilds), most of which seem to have been constituted in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Each one of these craft guilds, like the merchant guilds, had its charter and statutes, its patron saint, its banner and altar, its hall, its feast day, and its place in the religious processions and public festivities. There were in the craft guilds three classes of persons: the apprentices, or learners (apprendre, "to learn"), the journeymen (journée, "day"), or men hired to work by the day, and the masters or employers.

The apprentice had to remain from three to ten years in a condition of entire dependence under a master, in order to be qualified to exercise his trade as a journeyman. Before a master could engage an apprentice, he had to satisfy the officers of the guild of the soundness of his moral character. He was to treat the boy as he would his own child, and was held responsible not only for his professional, but also for his moral, education. On completing his apprenticeship, the young artisan became a journeyman (compagnon); at least, such was the rule from the fourteenth century onward. To become a master, he must have some means and pass an examination before the elders. At the head of the corporation was a board of trustees composed of two or more deans (doyens, syndics) assisted by a secretary, a treasurer, and six or more jurymen (jurés, assesseurs, trouveurs, prud'hommes). These officers were elected from among the masters and entrusted with the management of the guild's interests, the care of its orphans, the defence of its privileges, and the protection of its members. It was more especially the duty of the jurymen to enforce the statutes of the guild bearing on the relations between employer and employee, engagement of apprentices and journeymen, salaries, hours of work, holidays, etc. They could punish or even expel from the corporation any member whose conduct incurred their disapprobation.

From this strong organization, all pervaded with the spirit of Christianity, there resulted great benefits for the artisan. His work, which was well regulated and broken by many holidays, did not tax his strength too severely; the good life he was induced to live saved him from need, while his rights and interests were protected against the vexations of the local or central government. Still more noteworthy was the brotherly character of the relations between employee and employer, to which the great cities of the Middle Ages were indebted for the social peace which they enjoyed for many centuries. This alone would outweigh what disadvantages may have been attached to this organization of labour. The guilds of the Low Countries, otherwise similar to the French guilds, differed from them in one respect: political importance. The latter never gained enough influence to free themselves from the condition of utter dependence in which they had been placed by the kings, but in the Low Countries several circumstances combined which gave the labouring classes a power they could not have in France. Of these circumstances, the most important were the wealth of the cities, the large number of artisans, and their organization into military brotherhoods (confréries militaires) which formed a regular militia, capable of holding its own against the feudal armies, as was illustrated many times in the history of Flanders and Liège.

As this article has to deal mainly with the guilds in the Middle Ages, but little can be said of the corporations of artists, which, in France and the Low Countries, were few and had not much importance before the sixteenth century. The explanation of this tardy growth is found, at least partly, in the fact that, during the greater part of the Middle Ages, the fine arts remained within the Church or under its supervision; even in the thirteenth century the number of laymen engaged in these professions was still very small, as is shown in "Le Livre des métiers de Paris", or book of the statutes of the Paris craft guilds, drawn up by Etienne Boileau under the direction of St. Louis. Two other classes of guilds which deserve a special mention are the basoches (see Vol. VI, p. 193) and the temporary or permanent corporations for the exhibition of religious and other plays. The best known of the latter class of guilds is "La Confrérie de la Passion", established in 1402. Its Mystères form the link which unites the French tragedy of the seventeenth century with the dramatic literature of the Middle Ages.

After the end of the fifteenth century, under the despotic rule of the French kings, the guilds ceased to be a means of protection for a majority of their members — the journeymen — who formed associations of their own, regardless of all professional and even religious distinctions. Their privileges became a means of filling the royal coffers at the expense of the employers; the latter retaliated on the public, all the more readily that they had no competition to fear. By the middle of the eighteenth century the outcry against the guilds was general in France. In 1776 Turgot, then prime minister, planned their suppression, but his fall gave them some respite. In 1791 they were abolished by the Constituent Assembly. But remnants of these corporations are still found in many French and Belgian customs, as, for instance, the fees to be paid by notaries, solicitors, sheriff's officers, when they enter office. In the first half of the nineteenth century, several attempts were made in France to partially restore the craft guilds, but without success. During the last thirty years, however, there has been a Catholic movement in France and Belgium to counteract the evil effects of socialism by forming associations of employers and employed.


The first well-known German guild is that of the watermen of Worms, its charter (Zunftbrief) dating from 1106; the shoemakers of Würzburg received theirs in 1112; the weavers of Cologne, in 1149, the shoemakers of Magdeburg, in 1158. But it was not until the thirteenth century that the German guilds became numerous and important. Zunft, Innung, Genossenschaft, Brüderschaft, Gesellschaft, are the terms used in Germany to designate these associations. Here, as in Italy and the Low Countries, the most conspicuous guilds were those connected with the manufacture of linen and wool. In Ulm, for instance, towards the end of the fifteenth century, there were so many linen-weavers that the number of pieces of linen prepared in one year amounted at one time to 200,000. In the year 1466 there were 743 master weavers in Augsburg (Herberger, "Augsburg, und seine frühere Industrie", p. 46). In the large cities, the linen- and the wool-weavers formed two distinct corporations, and the wool-weavers again were divided into two classes: the makers of fine Flemish or Italian goods, and the makers of the coarser homespun materials.

Other important guilds were those of the tanners and the furriers; the latter included the shoemakers, the tailors, the glove-makers, and the stocking-knitters. In the shoemaker's trade there was a sharp distinction between the Neumeister, who made new shoes, the cobbler, and the slipper maker. The most striking example of an elaborate classification according to craft is found in the metal-workers: the farriers, knife-makers, locksmiths, chain-forgers, nail-makers, often formed separate and distinct corporations; the armourers were divided into helmet-makers, escutcheon-makers, harness-makers, harness-polishers, etc. Sometimes they went so far as to have special guilds for each separate article of a suit of armour. This accounts for the remarkable skill and finish seen in the simplest details.

A class of brotherhoods which deserves special mention is that of the guilds of the mining trades, which from an early date were very important in Saxony and Bohemia. "No politician or socialist of modern times", says H. Achenbach (Gemeines Deutsches Bergrecht, I, 69, 109), "can suggest a labour organization which will better accomplish the object of helping the labourer, elevating his position, and maintaining fair relations between the employer and the employed than that of the mining works centuries ago." The statutes of these mining guilds show, indeed, a remarkable care for the well-being of the labourer and the protection of his interests. Hygienic conditions in the mines, ventilation of the pits, precautions against accident, bathing houses, time of labour (eight hours daily — sometimes less), supply of the necessaries of life at fair prices, scale of wages, care of the sick and disabled, etc. — no detail seems to have been lost sight of.

As to their organization, government, and relations with the public or the civil authorities, the German guilds did not substantially differ from those in other European countries. The members were divided into apprentices, journeymen, and masters. At the head of the corporation was a director assisted by several officers. He was the sworn and responsible power of the guild, called the meetings, presided at them, had the right of final decision, managed the property of the guild, led it in case of war. Each guild had its fully equipped court of justice and enjoyed complete independence in all private concerns, but all the guilds were subject to the town council and town authorities, and were obliged to submit their statutes and ordinances to them. In the event of quarrels, either within or between the guilds, the civil authorities exercised the rights of a commercial judge; in conjunction with the guild, they also made regulations for the markets and police arrangements, fixed the prices of wares, organized the supervision of traffic and the protection from fraud or dishonest dealing.

The purchase of raw material was managed by the guild as a body so as to prevent monopoly. Strict regulations protected the rights of every one. There was equality between all the members with regard to the sale of their productions. The protection of purchasers and customers was assured by the city authorities; the guild was held responsible for the quality and quantity of the goods which it brought for sale to the market. In Germany, as elsewhere, however, the most striking feature of the guilds was the close connexion they established between religion and daily life. Labour was conceived by them as the complement of prayer, as the foundation of a well-regulated life. We read in the book "A Christian Admonition": "Let the societies and brotherhoods so regulate their lives according to Christian love in all things that their work may be blessed. Let us work according to God's law, and not for reward, else shall our labour be without blessing and bring evil on our souls." Each guild had its patron saint, who, according to tradition, had practised its particular branch of industry, and whose feast day was celebrated by attending church and by processions; each had its banner, its altar, or chapel in the church, and had Masses offered up for the living and the dead members. The religious observance of Sunday and holy days was commanded by most of the guilds. Whoever worked or made others work on those days, or on Saturday after the vesper bell, or neglected to fast on the days appointed by the Church, incurred a penalty. This union of religion and labour was a strong tie between the members of the guilds, and it was of great assistance in settling peacefully the differences arising between masters and companions.

The guilds were also mutual and benevolent societies; they helped the impoverished and sick members; they took care of the widows and orphans; they remembered the poor outside the society. Many benevolent institutions owed their foundation to some guild, as, for instance, St. Job's Hospital for smallpox patients at Hamburg, which was founded in 1505 by a guild of fishmongers, shopkeepers, and hucksters. There were a large number of these benevolent associations of tradesmen in the Middle Ages; at the close of the fifteenth century there were seventy at Lubeck, eighty at Cologne, and over one hundred at Hamburg.

In connexion with the guilds should be mentioned the workmen's clubs, which were very common at the end of the fifteenth century. So long as the German journeyman remained at work in a city, he belonged to one of these clubs, which supplied for him the place of his family and country. If he fell sick he was not left to public charity, but taken into the family of some master or cared for by his brother members wherever he went he could make himself known by the society's badge or password, and receive help and protection from the local branch of the association to which he belonged. Thus the journeyman was, in the first place, associated with the family of his employer, in whose house he generally lodged and boarded; in the second place, he stood in close relation with his associates of the same age and trade, co-members with him of the society which protected and helped him; finally, he enjoyed special connexion with the Church, because he generally belonged to one of the sodalities which were ordinarily, but not necessarily, a part of the society's organization.

Side by side with the artisans' guilds, there were also merchants' guilds, organized on the same plan as the former, and having similar objects in view with respect to the communal life of their members and their moral and religious well-being. But they differed in their attitude towards trade; for, while the chief object of the artisans' guilds was the protection and improvement of the different trades, the merchants' guilds aimed at securing commercial advantages for their members and obtaining the monopoly of the trade of some country or some particular class of goods. Not alone in the German cities, but also in all foreign countries where German commerce prevailed, corporations of this sort, guilds, or Hansa (the word Hansa has the same signification as guild), had existed from an early date and had obtained recognition, privileges, and rights from the foreign rulers and communities. By degrees these Hansa in foreign countries became banded together in one large association forming an important and rival commercial body in the midst of the native merchants and traders. Such was the case in London, where the merchants who had come from Cologne, Lübeck, Hamburg, and other cities formed an association of German merchants.

To further strengthen their position, the guilds belonging to different foreign cities decided to join in one common association. In England, those of Bristol, York, Ipswich, Norwich, Hull, and other cities were affiliated with the London Hansa, and were each represented there. On the same plan were organized the associations of Novgorod in Russia, of Wisby in the island of Gothland, and the so-called Komtoor of Bruges. The last-named was divided into three branches: one comprising with Lübeck the cities of the Slavonic country and of Saxony; the second, those of Prussia and Westphalia; and the third, those of Gothland, Livonia, and Sweden. This vast corporation, calling itself the Society of German Merchants of the Holy Roman Empire, was the foundation of the general German Hansa, or Hanseatic League, which by degrees embraced all the cities (at one time more than ninety) of Lower Germany, from Riga to the Flemish boundaries, and those in the South as far as the Thuringian forests. This league attained the summit of its power in the fifteenth century, and Dantzic was then universally acknowledged as its most important city; in the year 1481, more than 1100 ships had gone from its harbour to Holland. The ships were divided into flotillas of from thirty to forty craft, each flotilla having armed ships, called Orlogschiffe or Friedenskoggen, attached to it for its protection.

After a time, the Hanseatic League was broken up into separate sections whose centres were Lübeck for the Slavonic country, Cologne for the Rhenish, Brunswick for Saxony, and Dantzic for Prussia and Livonia. The Hansa lasted from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century; its last meeting took place in 1669, and the cities of Lübeck, Bremen, Brunswick, Cologne, Hamburg, and Dantzic were the only ones that had sent representatives. The causes of the ruin of this once so powerful association were the growth of the commerce of Holland and England, the Wars of the League, against Denmark and Sweden in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and the Thirty Years' War, which was so detrimental to German commerce and manufactures. Lübeck, Bremen, and Hamburg are still called the Hanseatic cities.

The history of the German guilds of artists is closely connected with that of the guilds of artisans. For a long time the artists were incorporated in the trade associations, and their organization into independent corporations took place only at the close of the Middle Ages. The architects were probably the first to have their own organization.

In Germany, as in the other countries of Europe, the guilds were compulsory bodies, having the right to regulate trade, under the supervision of the civil authorities; but the system was not injurious in the Middle Ages. It was so only at the close of the sixteenth century, when the guilds became narrowly exclusive with regard to the admission of new members, and were nothing but a mere benefit society for a small number of masters and their associates. The abuses of the German corporations were brought to the attention of the Imperial Government in the diets of 1548, 1577, and 1654, but it was only in the course of the nineteenth century that the guilds were successively abolished in the different States of Germany. In the last twenty-five years, there were enacted in that country a number of laws whose aim was not the re-establishment of the old corporations, which had each its special domain and privileges, but the protection of the labourers, who had been left without organization and defence by the abolition of the guilds.


"Of all the establishments of Numa", says Plutarch, "no one is more highly prized than his distribution of the people into colleges according to trade and craft. "From these words we should infer that the first well-known Italian corporations date from the seventh century B. C., but some authors, whose contention is founded on a text of Florus, have claimed that Servius Tullius, and not Numa, was the founder of the Roman colleges of artisans (e. g., Heineccius, "De collegiis et corporibus opificum", 138). Whatever may be the truth on this point, it is certain that the collegia opificum existed in the sixth century B. C., because they were incorporated in the constitution of Servius Tullius which remained in force until 241 B. C. There were but few of these corporations in the Republic, but their numbers increased under the emperors; in Rome alone there were in the third century more than thirty colleges, private and public (Theodosian Code, XIII and XIV). The latter were four in number: the navicularii, who supplied Rome with provisions, the bakers, the pork butchers, and the calcis coctores et vectores, who supplied Rome with lime for building. The members of these corporations received a fixed salary from the State.

Among the private colleges were numbered the argentarii, or bankers, the negotiatores vini, or wine merchants, the medici, or physicians, and the professores, or teachers. On the whole it might be said that the collegia were prosperous until the end of the third century B. C., but in the course of the next century they began to show signs of decline. The few privileges they enjoyed had ceased to be a compensation for their responsibilities to the State, and it was only by the most drastic measures that the last emperors succeeded in keeping the artisans in their collegia.

And now arise the questions: What remained of these corporations after the invasions? Is there any connexion between them and the Italian guilds of the thirteenth century? We can only answer this query by conjecture. The period extending from the fifth to the eleventh century is extremely poor in documents; the few annalists of those days have limited their work to a bare enumeration of events and a dry list of dates. Mention is made here and there of the existence of a guild, but we are not told whether these guilds are new associations or the development of an older organization. Since we know, however, that the Roman law was to a large extent incorporated in the codes of the Goths and Lombards, we have good ground to believe that many of the municipal institutions survived the fall of Rome. In support of this view, we have the well-known fact that the Barbarians usually dwelt in the country and left the government of the cities in the hands of the clergy, most of whom, being Italians, were naturally inclined to retain the Roman institutions, all the more readily as a better education enabled them to appreciate their value. All this leads to the conclusion that, in most cities, enough of the old Roman corporation must have been preserved to form the nucleus of a new organization which slowly but steadily developed into the guild of the Middle Ages.

The mercanzia, the earliest well-known type of these guilds, existed in Venice, Genoa, Milan, Verona, Pisa, and elsewhere in the tenth century; it somewhat resembled the merchant guild of Northern Europe, being an association of all the mercantile interests of the community without any professional distinction, but, as the increase of trade which followed the First Crusade brought about an increase of industrial activity, the arts found it more convenient to have an association of their own, and the mercanzia was split into craft guilds. As an example of this evolution, we may take the Roman mercanzia. Although it had been in existence at least since the beginning of the eleventh century, it received its final constitution only in 1285. At that time it was composed of thirteen arts, all united into one common association, but in the course of the following century we see these arts withdrawing successively from the mother guild and forming independent corporations until finally the mercanzia was merely a merchant guild.

The Italian arts were not all placed on the same footing. Some, being more important, had a right of precedence over the others and a larger share of the political rights. This hierarchy varied, of course, from one city to another; in Rome the farmers and drapers came first; in Venice and Genoa, the merchants. In Florence we find the most striking illustration of this type of organization. The arts were divided into major and minor. The former were, in the order of importance, the judges and notaries, the drapers, the bankers, the wool-manufacturers, the physicians and apothecaries, the silk-manufacturers, and the skin-dressers. They formed the popolo grosso, or burgesses, and governed the city with the old feudal families; but in 1282 the latter were deprived of their political rights, and the burgesses were compelled to share the government of Florence with the popolo minuto, or minor arts — the blacksmiths, the bakers, the shoemakers, the carpenters, and the retailers of wine.

In its main lines, the organization of the Italian guilds resembled that of the French guilds. Their members were divided into apprentices, journeymen, and employers. Their life was regulated by an elaborate system of statutes bearing on the professional and religious duties of the brethren, the relations of the corporations as a body with the local government, competition, monopoly, care of the sick, of the orphans, etc. The officers were all elected usually for a term not exceeding six months. At first they were few, but their number increased rapidly with the importance of the guild. One of the most remarkable illustrations of guild government is given us by the Roman corporations. At the head of each one was a cardinal protector, but the real managers were the consuls (sometimes called priori, capitudini). Until the beginning of the fifteenth century they were invested with great judicial power, but after the return of the popes to Rome their functions became merely administrative and their authority was limited by a number of other officers-assessors, procurators, delegates, defensors, secretaries, archivists. The second great officer of the corporation was the camerlingo, or treasurer; at one time his office was even more important than that of the consul, but little by little a large part of his powers went to computors, exactors, taxators, depositors. The proveditor had the custody of the guild's furniture and was to preserve good order in the assemblies; the syndics examined the administration of the officers at the end of their term; the physician and nurses attended the sick members free of charge, and the visitor had to call on those who were in prison. Besides, there were many officers attached to the chapel: vestrymen, churchwardens, chaplains.

Guilds of artists appeared very early in Italy. Sienna, Pisa, Venice seem to have been in the lead. The first of these cities had a corporation of architects and sculptors in 1212; the statutes of the sculptors and stone-cutters of Venice date from 1307; those of the carpenters and cabinet-makers in the same city from 1385. In Rome the guilds of artists were formed relatively late; the sculptors in 1406, the painters in 1478, the goldsmiths in 1509, the masons in 1527. On the whole it is seen that the arts connected with construction were the first to have their own association, then came the goldsmiths, and finally the painters. It often happened that artists were incorporated into trade guilds, as, for instance, the painters of Florence, who still belonged to the grocers' guild in the sixteenth century. The famous "Accademia del Desegno" of that city, one of the first academies of fine arts in Europe, grew out of the "Compagnia di San Luca", a semi-religious, semi-artistic guild. The decline of the Italian guilds began in the sixteenth century and was brought about by the decay of the commerce of the country. They were abolished in Rome by Pius VII in 1807, and by the end of the first half of the nineteenth century they had become a thing of the past in all Italian cities.


What has been said of the origin of the guilds in Italy applies to Spain. In no other province (except, perhaps, Southern Gaul) had the inhabitants been influenced more deeply by Roman civilization, and the Visigoths, who settled there in the fifth century, were, of all the Barbarians, those who showed the strongest tendency to retain Roman institutions and customs. Unfortunately, the growth of this neo-Roman civilization was stopped by the Arabian invasion in the eighth century, and in the following 700 years the Christians of Spain, who were bent on the task of wresting their country from the infidels, turned their energies to warfare. Domestic trade fell into the hands of the Jews, foreign trade into those of the Italians, and manufactures existed mostly in cities under Moorish dominion. Religious and military associations were many and powerful, but merchant and craft guilds could not grow on this battlefield.

ENGLAND: TOULMIN SMITH, English Gilds; ordinances of over 100 English Gilds, with the usages of Winchester, Worcester, Bristol etc. Introduction on the history of guilds by BRENTANO. Early English Text Society, Vol. XL (London, 1870); GROSS, Gilda mercatoria (Göttingen, 1883); BLANC, Bibliographie des corporations ouvrières avant 1789 (Paris, 1885); SELIGMAN, Mediœval Gilds of England in Publications of American Economic Association, II, No. 5 (New York, 1887); ASHLEY, Introduction to English Economic History and Theory, I (London, 1888); LAMBERT, Two Thousand Years of Gild Life, containing bibliography by PAGE (Hull, 1891); MILNES, From Gild to Factory (London, 1904); GASQUET, Eve of the Reformation (London, 1900).

FLANDERS AND FRANCE: SAINT-LÉON, Histoire des corporations de métiers depuis leurs origines jusqu'à leur suppression en 1791 (Paris, 1887); VALLEROUX, Les corporations d'arts et métiers et les syndicats professionnels en France et à l'étranger (Paris, 1885); LEVASSEUR, Histoire des classes ouvrières en France depuis la conquête de Jules César jusqu'à la Révolulion (Paris, 1859); PYCKE, Mémoire sur les corporations connues sous le nom de métiers (Bruxelles, 1827); BROUWER ANCHER, De Gilden (The Hague, 1895); DEPPING, Introduction aux réglements sur les arts et métiers de Paris, rédigés au XIIème siècle et connus sous le nom de Livre des métiers d'Etienne Boileau (Paris, 1837); GUIBERT, Les anciennes corporations de métiers en Limousin (Limoges, 1883); CHAUVIGNÉ, Histoire des corporations d'arts et métiers de Touraine (Tours, 1885); DU BOURG, Les corporations ouvrières de la ville de Toulouse du XIIIème au XVème siècle (Toulouse, 1884); LACROIX, Histoire des anciennes corporations d'arts et métiers et des confréries religieuses de la capitale de la Normandie (Rouen, 1850); DE MAROLLES, Considérations historiques sur les bienfaits du régime corporatif in Annales internationales d'histoire (Paris, 1902); BLANC, Bibliographie des corporations ouvrières avant 1789 (Paris, 1885); CHÉRUEL, Dictionnaire historique des institutions, mœurs et coutumes de la France (Paris, 1884); Mémoires de la Société des antiquaires (Paris, 1850); THIERRY, Recueil de monuments inédits de l'histoire du Tiers-Etat (Paris, 1850-70); VANDERKINDERE, Liberté et propriété en Flandre du IXème au XIIème siècle in Bulletin de l'Académie royale de Belgique (Brussels, 1906); DE LETTENHOVE, Histoire de Flandre (Brussels, 1847-50); GUIZOT, Histoire de la civilisation en Europe depuis la chute de l'empire romain jusqu'à la Revolution française (Paris, 1873).

GERMANY: For the establishment of the guilds in Germany, STIEDA in HILDEBRAND, Jahrbuch für Nationalökonomie, II (Jena, 1876), pp. 1-133; EBERSTADT, Der Ursprung des Zunftwesens (Leipzig, 1900). The following will also give valuable information: JANSSEN, History of the German People at the Close of the Middle Ages (tr., London, 1896); WILDA, Das Gildwesen im Mittel Alter (Halle, 1831); NITZSCH, Ueber die Niederdeutschen Genossenschaften des XII und XIII Jahrhunderts in Monatsberichte der Akad. der Wissenschaften (Berlin, 1879); HEGEL, Städte und Gilden der germanischen Völker (Leipzig, 1891); LAPPENBERG, Urkundliche Geschichte des Ursprungs der deutschen Hansa (Leipzig, 1854); HÖFPEBAUM, Hansisches Urkundenbuch (Halle, 1876-84); Hansische Geschichtsblätter (Leipzig, 1871-82).

SPAIN: WALFORD, Guilds, their Origin, etc. (London, 1880); GROSS, The Guild Merchant (Oxford, 1890); OLIVIERI, Le forme medievali d'associazione (Ancona, 1890); RYLLO, L'associazione nella storia (Catanzaro, 1892); Florentine Wool Trade in Transac. Royal Hist. Soc., XII; PERRENS, Histoire de Florence (Paris, 1877-83); RODOCANACHI, Corporations ouvrières de Rome au moyen-âge (Paris, 1894); CANTÚ, Storia d'Italia (French tr., Paris, 1859-62); LABARTE, Histoire des arts industriels au moyen-âge (Paris, 1864-66); GIBBINS, History of Commerce in Europe (London, 1892); SETON, Commerce of Italy in the Middle Ages in Catholic World, XIII (1876), 79; LAFUENTE Y ZANALLOU, Historia general de España (Madrid, 1850-69).

Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter