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Title: Guilds in the Middle Ages
Author: Renard, George
Language: English
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                            THE MIDDLE AGES


                            GEORGES RENARD


                             G. D. H. COLE


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                            THE MIDDLE AGES

                            GEORGES RENARD

                             TRANSLATED BY
                             DOROTHY TERRY
                             G. D. H. COLE


                        G. BELL AND SONS, LTD.


This short book is the first part of a larger work by M. Georges
Renard, the well-known French economic writer. The second part of the
original deals with the modern Trade Union movement, and the part here
reproduced is complete in itself.

G. D. H. COLE.

_October 1918._



 INTRODUCTION. By G. D. H. Cole                                 ix


 ORIGIN AND GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION                            1


 THE ORGANIZATION OF THE GUILDS                                  6

 1. Various types.--2. The simple Guild and the complex
 Guild.--3. The half-democratic Guild.--4. The
 apprentice.--5. The _compagnon_.--6. Women in the
 Guilds.--7. The capitalistic Guild.


 THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE GUILDS                               27


 THE AIMS AND METHODS OF THE GUILDS                             32

 1. Economic aim.--2. Social and moral aim; the
 fraternity.--3. Political aim. Classification of the
 Guilds; their internal disputes.




 EXTERNAL CAUSES OF DECAY                                       73

 1. Change in economic conditions. The extension of
 the markets and large-scale production; division of
 producers into classes; _compagnonnage_.--2. Change in
 intellectual conditions. The Renaissance. The
 Reformation.--3. Change in political conditions. The
 central  authority is driven to interfere: (_a_) through
 political  interest; (_b_) through fiscal interest;
 (_c_) through public interest.


 INTERNAL CAUSES OF DECAY                                      107

 1. Division at the heart of the Guilds: (_a_) separation
 of the members; (_b_) subjection of inferiors to
 superiors.--2. Division between the Craft Guilds.--3.
 Vexatious regulations.


 THE DEATH OF THE GUILDS                                       116

 1. Their suppression in the different countries of
 Europe. They become the victims of: (_a_) "great"
 commerce and "great" industry; (_b_) the law of the
 reduction of effort; (_c_) science; (_d_) fashion;
 (_e_) new economic theories.--2. Action against them in
 England, France, and other European countries.--3.
 Survivals, and attempts to restore the Guilds.

 AUTHOR'S BIBLIOGRAPHY                                         137

 EDITOR'S BIBLIOGRAPHY                                         140



It is a curious gap in our economic literature that no simple
introductory study of Mediaeval Guilds has yet been published in
England. The subject is, of course, dealt with in passing in every
text-book of economic history, and there have been several admirable
studies of particular aspects of Mediaeval Guild organization,
particularly of the period of its decay; but no one has yet attempted
to write a short account of the system as a whole, such as might serve
as a text-book for those who desire to get a general knowledge of the
industrial system of the Middle Ages.

This is all the more remarkable, because to an increasing extent in
recent years men's thoughts have turned back to the Mediaeval Guilds in
their search for solutions of present-day industrial problems. Nor is
this tendency entirely new, though it has recently assumed a new form.
The earlier Trade Unions often sought to establish their direct descent
from the Guilds of the Middle Ages: one of the most ambitious projects
of the Owenite period in British Trade Unionism was the "Builders'
Guild" of 1834; and, a generation later, William Morris, and to a less
extent John Ruskin, constantly strove to carry men's minds back to the
industrial order which passed away with the first beginnings of modern

Moreover, in our own times, an even more determined attempt is being
made to apply the lessons of the Middle Ages to modern industrial
problems. Mr. A. J. Penty's _The Restoration of the Guild System_,
published in 1907, began this movement, which was then taken up and
transformed into the constructive theory of National Guilds, first by
Mr. A. R. Orage and Mr. S. G. Hobson in the _New Age_, and later by
the writers and speakers of the National Guilds League. A substantial
literature, all of which assumes at least a general acquaintance with
mediaeval conditions, has grown up around this movement; but so far no
National Guildsman has attempted to write the history of the Mediaeval
Guilds, or even to explain at all clearly their relation to the system
which he sets out to advocate.

Until this very necessary work is executed, the present translation
of M. Renard's study of Mediaeval Guilds should fill a useful place.
Indeed, in some ways, M. Renard has the advantage. He is not a National
Guildsman, but a moderate French Socialist of the political school, and
he therefore presents the history of the Guilds without a preconceived
bias in their favour. It is no small part of the value of M. Renard's
study that he brings out the defects of the mediaeval system quite as
clearly as its merits.

It must be clearly stated at the outset that the value which a study
of Mediaeval Guilds possesses for the modern world is not based on any
historical continuity. The value lies rather in the very discontinuity
of economic history, in the sharp break which modern industrialism has
made with the past. Historians of Labour combination have often pointed
out that the Trade Unions of the modern world are not in any sense
descended from the Guilds of the Middle Ages, and have no direct or
genealogical connection with them. This is true, and the connection
which has sometimes been assumed has been shown to be quite imaginary.
But it does not follow that, because there is no historical connection,
there is not a spiritual connection, a common motive present in both
forms of association. This connection, indeed, is now beginning to be
widely understood. As the Trade Union movement develops in power and
intelligence, it inevitably stretches out its hands towards the control
of industry. The Trade Union, no doubt, begins as a mere bargaining
body, "a continuous association of wage-earners for the purpose of
maintaining or improving their conditions of employment"; but it cannot
grow to its full stature without becoming far more than this, without
claiming for itself and its members the right to control production.
At first this claim may be almost unconscious; but out of it grows a
conscious theory of Trade Union purpose. The Syndicalist movement,
native to France, but spreading the influence of its ideas over the
whole industrialized world, the Industrial Unionist movement, the
American equivalent of Syndicalism, and our own doctrine of National
Guilds, or Guild Socialism, are all conscious attempts to build a
policy upon the half-conscious tendencies of Trade Union action. In all
these the claim is made in varying forms that the workers themselves
shall control in the common interest the industries in which they are

In one of these theories at least there is a conscious retrospection
to the Middle Ages. National Guildsmen are seeking to formulate for
modern industrial Society a principle of industrial self-government
analogous to that which was embodied in the Mediaeval Guilds. They do
not idealize the Middle Ages; but they realize that the old Guild
system did embody a great and valuable principle which the modern world
has forgotten. They are not setting out to restore the Middle Ages; but
they are setting out to find a democratic form of industrial autonomy
which will spring from the principle which inspired the economic system
of mediaeval Europe.

Mediaeval Guilds assumed many different forms under the varying
circumstances of their origin--in Holland and Italy, France and
England, Scotland and Germany. But, underlying all their different
manifestations, a fundamental identity of principle can be found;
for, in all, the direct control of industry was in the hands of the
associated producers. The relations of the Guilds to other forms of
association differed widely from time to time and from place to place.
In some cases the Guilds dominated and almost constituted the State
or the municipal authority; in others, the power of the State and
the municipality were freely exercised to keep them under control.
But, whatever their exact relationship to other social powers, their
essential character persisted. It was an axiom of mediaeval industry
that direct management and control should be in the hands of the
producers under a system of regulation in the common interest.

With these general observations in mind, we can now proceed to look
more closely at the actual form which mediaeval organization assumed,
particularly in this country. M. Renard naturally has the Continental,
and especially the French, examples mainly in mind. We must therefore
in this introduction dwell particularly upon the conditions which
prevailed in mediaeval England.

It was in the Middle Ages that, for the first time, both the English
national State and English industry assumed definite shapes and forms
of organization, and entered into more or less defined and constant
relationships. Concerning their organization, and, still more,
concerning the actual, and substantial relations between them, there
are many points of obscurity which may never be cleared up; but, apart
from special obscurities, the main structure of mediaeval economic
life is clearly known. Just as, in the manorial system, agriculture
assumed a clear and definite relationship to the feudal State, so, with
the rise of town life and the beginnings of an industrial system, the
Mediaeval Guilds found a defined sphere and function in the structure
of Society and a defined relation to the mediaeval State.

It is always necessary, in considering the economic life of the Middle
Ages, to bear in mind the relatively tiny place which industry occupied
in Society. England, and indeed every country, was predominantly
agricultural; and England differed from the more advanced Continental
countries in that she was long an exporter of raw materials and an
importer of manufactured goods. This is the main reason why the
Mediaeval Guild system never reached, in this country, anything
like the power or dimensions to which it attained in Flanders, in
Italy, and in parts of Germany. But, even if English Guilds were less
perfect specimens, they nevertheless illustrated essentially the
same tendencies; and the economic structure of mediaeval England was
essentially the same as that which prevailed throughout civilized
Europe. It is indeed a structure which, at one period or another, has
existed over practically the whole of the civilized world.

Industry was carried on under a system of enterprise at once public
and private, associative and individual. The unit of production was
the workshop of the individual master-craftsman; but the craftsman
held his position as a master only by virtue of full membership in his
Craft Guild. He was not free to adopt any methods of production or any
scale of production he might choose; he was subjected to an elaborate
regulation of both the quantity and the quality of his products, of the
price which he should charge to the consumer, and of his relations to
his journeymen and apprentices. He worked within a clearly defined code
of rules which had the object at once of safeguarding the independence,
equality and prosperity of the craftsmen, of keeping broad the highway
of promotion from apprentice to journeyman and from journeyman to
master, and also of preserving the integrity and well-being of the
craft by guarding the consumer against exploitation and shoddy goods.

The Guild was thus internally a self-regulating unit laying down the
conditions under which production was to be carried on, and occupying
a recognized status in the community based on the performance of
certain communal functions. It was not, however, wholly independent
or self-contained; it had intimate relations with other Guilds, with
the municipal authority of the town in which it was situated, and,
in increasing measure, with the national State within whose area it
lay. There is about these relations, with which we are here primarily
concerned, a considerably greater obscurity than about the main
structure of industrial organization. In particular, one of the most
obscure chapters in English industrial history is that which deals with
the relation between the Craft Guilds of which we have been speaking
and the municipal authorities.

In the great days of the Guild system the industrial market was almost
entirely local. Long-distance or overseas trade existed only in a
few commodities, and, in this country, these were almost entirely raw
materials or easily portable luxuries. England was, as we have seen,
an agricultural country, and the nascent industry of the towns existed
only to supply a limited range of commodities within a restricted
local market. While these conditions remained in being, organization
developed in each town separately, and industry came hardly at all
into touch with the national State. Then, gradually, the market
widened and the demand for manufactured commodities increased. As this
happened, industry began to overflow the boundaries set to it by the
purely local Guild organization. Foreign trade, and to a less extent
internal exchange, increased in variety and amount; and a distinct
class of traders, separated from the craftsmen-producers, grew steadily
in power and prominence. New industries, moreover, and rival methods
of industrial organization began to grow up outside the towns and to
challenge the supremacy of the Guilds; while, in the Guilds themselves,
the system of regulation began to break down, and inequality of wealth
and social consideration among the Guildsmen destroyed the democratic
basis of the earlier Guild organization.

These developments coincided in time with a big growth in the power
and organization of the national State, a growth based largely on
the imposition of a common justice and the establishment of a common
security. This made possible, while the parallel economic developments
made necessary, a national economic policy; and the State, beginning
with the woollen industry, then after agriculture of by far the
greatest national and international importance, began to develop
a policy of economic intervention. The State had intervened in
agriculture after the Black Death; even earlier it had begun its long
series of interventions in connection with the woollen industry; in
1381 the first Navigation Act was passed; and during the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries complicated codes of industrial regulation by the
State became the rule and practice of English statecraft.

We have then to distinguish already two periods in which the State
assumed differing relations to mediaeval industrial organization. In
the earlier days of the Guild system industry was local in character,
and the Guilds came into relations primarily with the municipal
authority, and only occasionally with the State, even when the Guild
charter was obtained directly from the Crown. In the second period,
when the Guild system was already at the beginning of its long period
of disintegration, the State was developing a comprehensive economic
policy which covered every aspect of industrial organization.

Let us look rather more closely at the first of these two periods,
the period of the rise and predominance of Guild organization; and
let us repeat our question as to the relations which existed between
the Guilds and the State or municipal authority. The first form
of Guild organization in this country was undoubtedly that of the
"Guild Merchant," a general organization including both trading and
manufacturing elements, and deriving special privileges for its trade
by virtue of a Charter secured directly from the Crown. Here, then,
is our first clear relation. The Guild Merchant derived, if not its
organization, at any rate its privileges and authority, from the direct
grant of the State. In practice the principal power thus acquired was
the right to trade throughout the kingdom. The relations of the Guild
Merchant to the municipal authorities are far more obscure. It used
to be maintained that they were identical; but this view has been
clearly disproved. We cannot, however, trace many signs of the active
intervention of the municipality in the affairs of the Guild Merchant,
though it is clear that the jurisdiction of the City authorities
remained, in form at least, unaffected by the creation of a Guild

The Guilds Merchant reached their zenith in the twelfth century.
Thereafter, as trade and industry grew in extent and complexity, the
general organization of all merchants and master-craftsmen in a single
body gave way to a system of Craft Guilds, each representing as a rule
a single craft or "mistery." Some of these Guilds were predominantly
Guilds of traders, some of producers; while some included both trading
and producing elements. By the fourteenth century the Guilds Merchant
had everywhere disappeared, and the Craft Guilds were in possession of
the field. Thus came into being the organization of industry generally
known as the "Mediaeval Guild system."

What, then, were the relations of these Craft Guilds to the
municipalities and to the State? They arose, we have seen, out of the
ashes of the Guild Merchant. Often they were definitely created and
fostered by the municipal authorities. The borough claimed the right
of regulating production and trade in the interest of its burgesses,
the right to uphold quality of product and fair dealing, to punish
offenders, and in the last resort to fix both the prices of commodities
and the remuneration of journeymen and apprentices. The greater part
of these functions was actually exercised by the Crafts themselves,
which, as we have seen, made their own regulations for the ordering of
trade and production; but the city authorities always maintained and
asserted a right of intervention in the affairs of the Guilds whenever
the well-being and good service of the consumer were involved; and
this right was frequently exercised in the case of the Guilds which
organized the supply of food and drink. Neither the limits of Guild
authority nor the limits of municipal intervention were accurately
or uniformly defined. In practice the system oscillated from the
one side to the other. Sometimes the Guilds asserted and maintained
a comparative immunity from municipal regulation, and sometimes a
recalcitrant Guild was brought to book by a strong-handed municipal
authority. The poise and balance between the parties was in many cases
made the more even because both alike often derived their authority
from a special Charter granted by the Crown. Indeed, one of the regular
resorts of the Craft Guild, in its battle for independence from outside
control, was to get from the Crown a definite Charter of incorporation,
granting to the Guild the widest range of powers that it was able to

The Guild was essentially a local organization, and, in placing it
in its relation to the municipal authority, we are describing it in
its essential economic character. Its relation to the national State,
like that of the municipality itself, was far more occasional and
incidental, and, apart from one or two broad issues of policy connected
mainly with the woollen industry, the interest of the national State
in the towns, and therefore in industrial organization, was primarily
financial. The protection of the consumer was a very minor motive; the
stimulation of urban industry had hardly become a general object of
policy systematically pursued; and the granting of Charters, whether
to town or to Guild, was far less a matter of economic policy than
an obvious device for raising the wind. Charters were always most
plentiful when the Crown was most in need of money.

The period of merely occasional intervention in industry by the State
lasted down to the time of Elizabeth, when for the first time the
State undertook a comprehensive system of industrial regulation.
This, however, no longer meant the exclusive dominance of financial
considerations, although the need for raising money was always very
present to the minds of Elizabeth and her ministers. The new policy was
primarily political in motive rather than economic, and was directed
on the one side to the fostering and development of trade, and on
the other to the conservation of the man-power of the nation. The
Elizabethan Statute of Artificers, passed in 1563, laid down elaborate
provisions both for regulating the flow of labour into various classes
of occupations and for prescribing the conditions under which the
work was to be carried on. Attention in modern times has been mainly
directed to the clauses dealing with wages; but the principle of
the Act was very much wider than any mere regulation of wages. It
rested upon the principle of compulsory labour for all who were not
in possession of independent means; and its basis was the obligation
upon every one who could not show cause to the contrary to labour on
the land. At the same time it aimed at protecting the supply of labour
for the urban industries, and, still more, at giving to urban industry
an advantage against the growing competition of the country-side. In
short, it incorporated a general scheme for the redistribution of the
national man-power in accordance with a definite conception of national
policy. This distribution was accomplished mainly by an elaborate code
of regulations for apprenticeship, parts of which lived on right into
the nineteenth century.

With this regulation of trade and commerce went also a regulation of
wages. As in the case of the Statute of Labourers, the object was
primarily that of preventing the labourer from earning more than his
customary standard, allowing for variations in the cost of living. The
rates of wages which the Justices of the Peace were ordered to fix were
thus primarily _maxima_, and the Act contained stringent penalties
against those who obtained, or paid, more than these _maxima_. In some
cases, however, if rarely, the rates laid down were also _minima_,
and employers were fined for paying less. This was, however, clearly
exceptional, and a special declaratory Act passed under James I., which
clearly empowered the justices to fix binding minimum rates, shows that
there had been legal doubt about it.

In any case the general tendency of the Tudor legislation is clear.
It aimed at establishing and enforcing by law the existing social
structure, at standardizing the relations between the classes, and at
putting them all in their places under the direction of the sovereign
State. In short, the Tudor system represents, in the most complete form
possible, the State regulation of private industry.

While these measures were being taken by the State, the Guild system
was in decay. As wealth grew and accumulated, the tendencies towards
oligarchy within the Guilds and exclusiveness in relation to outsiders
grew more and more marked. Among the Guildsmen wide social distinctions
appeared, and the master-craftsman before long found himself, in
relation to the rich trader or large-scale manufacturer, very much
in the position of a labourer in relation to his employer. The
richer Guilds, especially those connected with trade, sought by the
limitation of entry and the exaction of high entrance fees and dues
after entry, to keep the Guild "select" and establish an oligarchy in
its government. At the same time the growth of new industries which
had never come under Guild regulation, and the grant by the Crown of
special privileges to individual monopolists and patentees, contributed
to the downfall of the old system. Where the Guilds did not die, they
were transformed into exclusive and privileged companies which in no
sense carried on the mediaeval tradition.

Especially in the later stages of Guild development, and with growing
intensity as they drew nearer to decay and dissolution, struggles
raged in many of the Guilds and between Guild and Guild among the
diverse elements of which they had come to be composed. M. Renard
speaks of struggles in the Guilds of Florence between the more and
less capitalistic and powerful elements, and Mr. George Unwin, in his
book on _Industrial Organisation in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth
Centuries_, has presented a picture of similar struggles in the
Guilds of England. These conflicts, however various in some respects,
assumed mainly the form of a constant struggle for supremacy between
the craftsmen-producers who were typical of the great days of the
Guilds and the trading or merchant class which was gradually extending
its control over production as well as sale. Gradually, as capital
accumulated in the hands of the traders, the rift between them and the
master-craftsmen widened and, gradually too, the master-craftsmen lost
their independence and their status as free producers. Not only the
marketing of the goods which they produced, but also the essential raw
materials of their crafts, passed under the control of the traders,
either by the operation of economic forces alone, or by the purchase of
some valuable concession or monopoly from the Crown. Moreover, where
the actual producer retained his power, he did so by a transformation
of function. Gradually, he turned into a capitalist trader and lost all
unity of interest and outlook with the working craftsman.

We need not here follow the Guild system through its later stages of
decay and dissolution. Where the Guilds did not die they shrank up as
a rule into capitalistic and oligarchical associations. Step by step,
power within the Guild was taken away from the ordinary Guild member by
the creation of privileged orders, access to which was possible only
to "men of substance." This process of oligarchization can be traced
very clearly in Mr. George Unwin's admirable history of the Guilds and
Companies of London. No doubt its coming was more obvious in London
than in smaller industrial centres; but the essential features of the
change were everywhere substantially the same. The constant attacks on
patents and monopolies in the later years of the reign of Elizabeth and
under the Stuarts were, in part, attacks upon the privileges granted to
mere courtiers and adventurers; but when monopoly came their way, the
undemocratic Guilds and Livery Companies were to the full as forward in
abusing their powers as the merest of adventurers who found or bought
the royal favour.

From the time of the Stuarts, at least, the Guild system had ceased to
count at all as a method of industrial organization. It is doubtful
whether, even in their greatest days, the Guilds ever included the
whole personnel of the trades and industries which they controlled, and
it is certain that, as the tendency towards oligarchy became manifest
in them, they included a steadily decreasing proportion of those
whose work they claimed to regulate. Moreover, even of those whom they
included, a steadily decreasing number retained any control over their

This decay of the Guilds, however, is not of primary importance for
those who seek to learn lessons from their experience. If we would
judge them and learn from them, we must study them as they were in
the time of their greatest prosperity and power, before the coming
of capitalistic conditions had broken their democracy in pieces and
destroyed their essential character. Viewed in this aspect, the Guild
system was essentially a balance, made the easier to maintain because
it was not so much a balance of powers between different groups of
persons with widely divergent interests as a balance between the same
persons grouped in different ways, for the performance of different
social functions. The municipal authority was, as a rule, largely
dominated by the Guilds; and in turn the Guilds were largely dominated
by the civic spirit. The distinction between producer and consumer
was important; but it was not so much a distinction between opposing
social classes as between friendly and complementary forms of social
organization. In proportion as this was not the case, the balance on
which the Guild system rested tended to break down; but the occasion
of its breakdown was not the irreconcilable opposition of producer
and consumer, but the struggles within the Guilds themselves between
traders and craftsmen, or between exclusive and democratic tendencies.

The mediaeval organization of industry, then, was based upon the twin
ideas of function and balance. It was an organization designed for an
almost self-contained local type of Society, and before the coming of
national and international economy it broke down and fell to pieces.
As a local system of organization it reached its greatest perfection
in those countries in which town life was strongest and national
government weakest (_e.g._ in the Hanse towns of Germany; in Italy, and
in Flanders). In this country the towns never possessed the strength
or the independence necessary for the perfect development of the Guild
system; but even so all the essential principles of the Guilds were

The period since the breakdown of the Guilds has been a period
of national and international economy. From the point of view of
economic organization, it falls into two contrasted halves--a period
of State supremacy in which the State assumed the supreme direction
of industrial affairs, and a period of State abdication in the
nineteenth century, during which there was no collective organization,
and economic matters were left to the free play of economic forces
working in a _milieu_ of competition. Positively, these two periods
stand to each other in sharp contrast; negatively there is a point of
close resemblance between them. In neither was there any functional
organization co-ordinating and expressing the economic life of the
nation. In the first period the State regulated industry as a universal
and sovereign authority; in the second period nobody at all was
allowed to regulate industry, which was supposed to regulate itself by
a sort of pre-ordained harmony of economic law. In both periods the
purely economic organizations directed to the performance of specific
functions which were characteristic of mediaeval organization had
disappeared, or at all events had ceased to be the vital regulating
authorities in industrial affairs. Local functional organizations had
ceased to be adequate to the task of control; national functional
organizations had not yet come into being, or, at all events, had not
yet secured recognition.

To-day we stand at the beginning of a new period of economic history.
The Trade Union movement, created mainly as a weapon of defence, is
beginning to challenge capitalist control of industry, and to suggest
the possibility of a new form of functional organization adapted to the
international economy of the modern world. Already in Russia chaotic
but heroic experiments in workers' control are taking place, and, in
every country, the minds of the workers are turning to the idea of
control over industry as the one escape from the tyranny of capitalism
and the wage system. It is, then, of the first importance that, in
framing the functional democracy of twentieth-century industry, we
should cast back our minds to the functional industrial democracy
of the Middle Ages, in order that we may learn what we can from its
successes and its failures, and, even more, gain living inspiration
from what is good and enduring in the spirit which inspired the men who
lived in it and under it.

G. D. H. COLE.

_November 1918._



1. The origin of guilds has been the subject of a great deal of
discussion, and two opposing theories have been advanced. According to
the first theory they were the persistence of earlier institutions;
but what were these institutions? Some say that, more particularly
in the south of France, they were of Roman and Byzantine origin, and
were derived from those _collegia_ of the poorer classes (_tenuiorum_)
which, in the last centuries of the Empire, chiefly concerned
themselves with the provision of funerals; or, again, from the
_scholae_, official and compulsory groups, which, keeping the name of
the hall in which their councils assembled, prolonged their existence
till about the year 1000. According to others they were, particularly
in the north, of German origin, and were derived from associations
resembling artificial families, the members of which mingled their
blood and exchanged vows to help each other under certain definite
circumstances; or again, they may have descended in a straight line
from the _ministeriales_, the feudal servitors who, in every royal or
feudal domain of any extent, were grouped according to their trade,
under the authority of a _panetier_,[1] a _bouteillier_,[2] a head
farrier, or a chief herdsman. According to others again, the Church,
that great international association, had, by the example of its
monastic orders and religious brotherhoods, given the laity lessons and
examples of which they were not slow to take advantage.

According to the opposite theory, each guild was a separate creation,
born, as it were, by spontaneous generation, and had no connection
with the past. Associations (_gildae_), _scholae_, colleges--all had
been killed by the hostility of the central power before they had
had time to mature fully. They were children of the necessity which
compelled the weak to unite for mutual defence in order to remedy the
disorders and abuses of which they were the victims. They were the
result of the great associative movement, which, working by turns on
political and economic lines, first gave birth to the communes, and so
created a social environment in which they could live and develop. The
craftsmen, drawn together into one street or quarter by a similar trade
or occupation, the tanners by the river, or the dockers by the port,
acquired for themselves in the towns which had won more or less freedom
the right to combine and to make their own regulations.[3]

As is nearly always the case, there is a kernel of truth in each
of these opposing theories. Certainly it is hardly likely that
the germs or the wreckage of trade associations, existing in the
_collegia_, the _scholae_, the associations, the groups in royal,
feudal, or ecclesiastical domains, should have totally disappeared, to
reappear almost immediately. Why so many deaths followed by so many

The provision trades in particular do not appear to have ceased to be
regulated and organized. If, as Fustel de Coulanges says, "history
is the science of becoming," it must here acknowledge that guilds
already existed potentially in society. It may even be added that in
certain cases, it was to the interest of count or bishop to encourage
their formation; for, as he demanded compulsory payment in kind or
in money, it was to his advantage to have a responsible collective
body to deal with. It is certain, too, that religious society, with
its labouring or weaving monks (the Benedictines or Umiliate for
instance), with its bodies of bridge-building brothers, with its lay
brotherhoods, was also tending to encourage the spirit of association.
But it is none the less true that these organisms,--if not exactly
formless, at any rate incomplete, unstable, with little cohesion, and
created with non-commercial aims,--could not, without the influence
of favourable surroundings, have transformed themselves into guilds
possessing statutes, magistrates, political jurisdiction, and often
political rights. It was necessary that they should find, in Europe,
social conditions in which the need for union, felt by the mass of
the population, could act on their weakness and decadence like an
invigorating wind, infusing new life into them. It was necessary
that they should find in the town[4] which sheltered them, a little
independent centre, which would permit the seeds of the future, which
they held, to grow and bear fruit unchecked.

It may then be concluded that there was, if not a definite persistence
of that which had already existed, at least a survival out of the
wreckage, or a development of germs, which, thanks to the surrounding
conditions, underwent a complete metamorphosis.

2. What we have just said explains both how it was that the guilds
were not confined to any small region, and why they were not of equal
importance in all the countries in which they were established. They
are to be met with in the whole of the Christian West, in Italy as well
as in France, in Germany as well as in England. They were introduced
simultaneously with town life in the countries of the north. There is
sufficient authority for believing that the system which they represent
predominated in those days in the three worlds which disputed the
coasts and the supremacy of the Mediterranean--the Roman Catholic, the
Byzantine, and the Mohammedan. Thus there reigned in the basin of that
great inland sea a sort of unity of economic organization.

This unity, however, did not exclude variety. The guilds were more
alive and more powerful as the towns were more free. Consequently it
was in Flanders, in Italy, in the "Imperial Towns," in the trading
ports, wherever, in fact, the central authority was weak or distant,
that they received the strongest impetus.

They prospered more brilliantly in the Italian Republics than at Rome
under the shadow of the Holy See. In France, as in England, they had
to reckon with a jealous and suspicious royalty which has ever proved
a bad neighbour to liberty. The more commercial, the more industrial
the town, the more numerous and full of life were the guilds; it was
at Bruges or at Ghent, at Florence or at Milan, at Strasburg or at
Barcelona, that they attained the height of their greatness; at all
points, that is, where trade was already cosmopolitan, and where the
woollen industry, which was in those days the most advanced, had the
fullest measure of freedom and activity.



1. It is sometimes imagined that the guilds united all the merchants
and all the craftsmen of one region. This is a mistake. At first those
who lived in the country, with rare exceptions,[5] did not belong to
them: certain towns, Lyons for instance, knew nothing of this method
of organization, and even in those towns where it was in existence,
there were trades which remained outside, and there were also isolated
workers who shunned it--home-workers, who voluntarily or involuntarily
kept themselves apart from it.[6] Guilds, then, were always privileged
bodies, an aristocracy of labour.

It is also imagined that they were voluntary organizations of a uniform
type. There is the classic division into three degrees or grades. Just
as under the feudal system, a man became successively page, esquire,
and knight, and it was necessary, in order to rise from one stage of
the hierarchy to the next, to complete a certain time of service and
of military education, so in the guild organization, he was first an
apprentice for one or more years, then a journeyman (_garçon_, _valet_,
_compagnon_, _serviteur_), working under the orders of others for
an indeterminate period, and finally, a master, established on his
own account and vested with full rights. Just as the knight, after he
had given proof of having finished his instruction, had still, before
putting on his golden spurs, to go through a religious and symbolic
service which included the purifying bath, the oath, and the communion,
so the master, after having proved his capabilities by examination or
by the production of a piece of fine craftsmanship, took the oath,
communicated, and fraternized with his fellows at a solemn banquet.
But this quasi-automatic promotion from rank to rank was in fact far
from being as regular as has been imagined. It was not unusual for
one of the three grades, that of _compagnon_, to be passed over, for
the apprentice to rise directly to the rank of master, and for the
formalities of admission to be reduced to a minimum for one who had
the good luck to be a master's son. From the earliest times mastership
tended to become hereditary, as did the life fiefs held by barons
and earls. Nor on the other hand was it rare for a _compagnon_ to
find himself for life at that grade without the possibility of rising
higher. Moreover, the famous divisions never existed, except in certain

The truth is that guild organization, even within the walls of a
single town, presented several different types. It might be _simple_,
or _complex_; it might be either half democratic or capitalistic in

2. It was simple when it included only one trade, and this was fairly
often the case. It was complex when it was composed of several
juxtaposed or superimposed groups. In this case it was a federation of
craft guilds, each keeping its individual life, its own statutes, and
its own officers, but all united in a larger body of which they became
members. This was the name which at Florence was borne by those lesser
bodies of which the whole was composed.[7] The whole was called an
_Arte_, and just as the _membri_ could themselves be subdivided, so the
_Arte_ might be defined as a union of unions.

The Middle Age was not an age of equality. Usually among the groups
united under a central government there was one which predominated,
which held fuller corporate rights; the others, regarded as inferiors,
only enjoyed a greater or smaller part of such rights. Some did not
enjoy the privilege of co-operating in the election of the federal
magistrates, to whom none the less they owed obedience; others were not
allowed to carry the banners, towards which they nevertheless had to
contribute their share.

Take, for example, the _Arte dei medici, speziali, e merciai_, at
Florence, which included, as may be seen, three _membri_--doctors,
apothecaries, and haberdashers. This seems a heterogeneous assemblage,
but the first two are easily accounted for; and if the connection is
less clear between the last and these two, it may be found in the fact
that the haberdashers, like the great shops of our own day, sold some
of everything, and consequently kept in their shops those foreign drugs
and spices of which the _speziali_ were the usual depositaries.[8] The
complication is here increased because the _speziali_, among whom Dante
was enrolled, included as subordinate _membri_ the painters combined
with the colour merchants, while the saddlers were coupled with the

It will easily be understood how troubled must have been the life of
associations formed of such diverse elements. There was in each an
endless succession of internal struggles in the attempt to maintain
between the varying elements an equilibrium which was necessarily
unstable. Each "member," according to the number of its adherents,
or according to the social standing which it claimed, or which was
accorded to it by public opinion, fought for the mastery; but as in
the course of years their relative importance was constantly modified,
the constitution of the whole body was for ever changing. No fixed
principle regulated its ceaseless mobility, or set on a solid basis the
organization of its compact but rival groups, of which one or another
was ever tempted to imagine itself sacrificed.

3. The guild, when simple, was usually half democratic. Being a
bourgeois growth developing in feudal surroundings, it rested, like the
feudal system itself, on two closely connected principles--hierarchy
and equality. It included several superposed grades, while at the same
time it assured identical rights to everybody included in any one of
those grades. Masters, journeymen, and apprentices were ranked one
above another, but those of the same grade were equals. Inequality
could be, theoretically at least, only temporary, since the master
had once been a journeyman, the journeyman was a prospective master,
and the apprentice in his turn would climb to the top of the ladder.
This state of things, however, was only to be met with in the building
trades, in "small" industry and "small" commerce--the most numerous it
is true, but not the most powerful. There alone was almost realized
the idyllic picture of the workman working in the workshop beside his
master, sharing his life, eating at his table, his partner in joys and
sorrows, joining him in processions and at public ceremonies, until the
day when he himself should rise to be a master.

4. It is convenient to begin with the lowest grade and work upwards.
The apprentice was, as may be imagined, the object of a somewhat keen
solicitude. Apprenticeship, in "small" industry, with which it was
intimately associated, was the means of maintaining that professional
skill on which the guild prided itself. The apprentice was a child whom
his parents or guardians wished to be taught a trade as soon as he was
ten or twelve years of age, although there was no fixed age limit. A
master was found who would take him. Every instructor must be a master:
he must also be of good life and character, endowed with patience, and
approved of by the officers of the guild. If he were recognized as
capable of carrying out his duties, the two parties bound themselves by
a contract, often verbal, often also made before a notary. This fixed
the length of the apprenticeship, which varied greatly in different
trades; for it might cover from one to six, eight, ten, or twelve
years; sometimes it stipulated for a time of probation--usually a
fortnight--during which time either side could cancel the agreement.
The apprenticeship was not free of expense, at any rate to begin with,
and the child's guardians paid an annual fee in corn, bread, or money.
In return, the child received his lodging, food, clothes, washing,
and light, and was supervised and taught in the master's house.
Certain contracts contain special clauses: one states that the family
will supply clothes and boots; another, that the apprentice shall
receive a fixed salary after a certain time; another provides for the
circumstances under which the engagement may be cancelled.[10]

The apprentice had certain obligations, which sometimes, in spite
of his youth, he solemnly swore to keep (the oath has never been
so much used as in the Middle Ages). He promised to be industrious
and obedient, and to work for no other master. The master, on his
side, promised to teach him the secrets of his craft, to treat him
"well and decently in sickness as in health," and certain contracts
add, "provided that the illness does not last longer than a month."
Naturally these duties carried with them certain rights. The master
might correct and beat the apprentice, provided that he did it himself;
a contract drawn up with a rope-maker in Florence says, "short of
drawing blood." It often happened that the apprentice, sick of work
or in a fit of ill-temper, ran away from his master; a limit was
then fixed for his return, and his place was kept for him during his
absence, which sometimes lasted quite a long time (it has been known to
continue as long as twenty-six weeks). If he returned within the time
limit he was punished but taken back; but if he indulged in three such
escapades he was dismissed, his parents had to indemnify the master,
and the truant was not allowed to go back to the craft which he had

However, an enquiry was held to decide whether the master had abused
his rights, and the officers of the guild or the civil authority, as
the case might be, set at liberty any apprentice who had been unkindly
or inhumanly treated. We find a master prosecuted for having beaten
and kicked an apprentice to death; a mistress indicted for having
forced into evil living a young girl who had been entrusted to her
care. In such a case the apprentice was removed from his unworthy
master and put into safer hands. Sometimes it happened that the master
was attacked by a long and serious illness, or that through trouble and
poverty he could no longer carry out his agreement.

A custom, however, sprang up which threatened to wreck the system.
This was the practice of buying for money so many years or months of
service, thus establishing a privilege to the detriment of professional
knowledge and to the advantage of the well-to-do. A sum of money took
the place of actual instruction received, and some apprentices at the
end of two years, others only at the end of four, obtained their final
certificate which allowed them to aspire to mastership.

Attention should be called to the fact that there are many statutes
which limit the number of apprentices. What was the motive of this
limitation? The reason which was usually put foremost--namely,
the difficulty one master would have in completing the technical
education of many pupils--does not seem to have been always the most
serious. Perhaps a reduction was insisted on by the journeymen, for
it was usually to the interest of the masters to have a great many
apprentices, and to keep them for a long time at that stage. They were
so many helpers to whom little or nothing was paid, although the work
exacted of them nearly equalled that of the journeymen. Therefore we
must not be astonished if the latter looked unfavourably on these young
competitors who lowered the price of labour. The poor apprentices
were thus between the devil and the deep sea. They suffered from the
jealousy of the journeymen as well as from the greed of the masters,
who cut down their allowance of food, and by keeping them unreasonably
long prevented them from earning a decent living.

The literature of the times,[11] when it deigns to notice them, leaves
us to infer that their existence was not a particularly happy one;
nevertheless it is only right to add that their lot cannot be compared
with that of the wretched children who, in the opening years of the era
of machinery, were introduced in large numbers into the great modern

5. The journeymen (also called _valets_, _compagnons_, _serviteurs_,
_massips_, _locatifs_, _garçons_, etc.) were either future masters or
else workmen for life, unable to set up for themselves because they
lacked the indispensable "wherewithal," as certain statutes crudely
express it. Their time of apprenticeship over, they remained with the
master with whom they had lived; or else, especially in the building
trades, having perfected themselves by travel, they went to the market
for disengaged hands[12] and offered their services. They were hired in
certain places where the unemployed of all trades assembled. They were
required to give proof that they were free of all other engagements,
and to present certificates, not only of capability, but of good
conduct, signed by their last master. Thieves, murderers, and outlaws,
and even "dreamers" and slackers, stood no chance of being engaged,
while those who, though unmarried, took a woman about with them, or who
had contracted debts at the inns, were avoided. They were required to
be decently clothed, not only out of consideration for their clients,
but also because they had to live and work all day in the master's
house. The master, when he was satisfied with the references given, and
when he had assured himself that he was not defrauding another master
who had more need of hands than himself, could engage the workman. The
contract which bound them was often verbal, but there was a certain
solemnity attaching to it; for the workman had to swear on the Gospels
and by the saints that he would work in compliance with the rules of
the craft.

The engagement was of very varying duration; it might be entered into
for a year, a month, a week, or a day. The workman who left before the
time agreed upon might be seized, forced to go back to the workshop,
and punished by a fine. If the master wished to dismiss the workman
before the date arranged, he had first to state his reasons for so
doing before a mixed assembly composed of masters and journeymen. A
mutual indemnity seems to have been the rule, whether the workman
abandoned the work he had begun, or whether the master prematurely
dismissed the man he had hired.[13]

The journeyman had to work in his master's workshop, and it was
exceptional for him to go alone to a client (in which case he was
duly authorized by the master), or to finish an urgent piece of work
at home. The length of the working day was regulated by the daylight.
Lighting was in those days so imperfect that night work was forbidden,
as nothing fine or highly finished could be done by the dim light of
candles. This rule could never be broken except in certain crafts--by
the founders, for example, whose work could not be interrupted without
serious loss--or by those who worked for the king, the bishop, or the
lord.[14] The rest worked from sunrise to sunset, an arrangement which
made summer and winter days curiously unequal. Some neighbouring clock
marked the beginning and end of the day, and a few rests amounting
to about an hour and a half broke its length. All this was very
indefinite, and disputes were frequent as to the time for entering or
leaving the workshop. The Paris workmen often complained of being kept
too late, and of the danger of being obliged to go home in the dark
at the mercy of thieves and footpads. It was necessary for the royal
provost to issue a decree before the difficulty was overcome.

The workers, however, reaped the benefit of the many holidays which
starred the calendar and brought a little brightness into the grey
monotony of the days. The Sunday holiday was scrupulously observed
without interfering with the Saturday afternoon, when work stopped
earlier, or the religious festivals which often fell on a week day. It
has been calculated[15] that the days thus officially kept as holidays
amounted to at least thirty, and it may be safely said that work was
less continuous then than nowadays.

To leave work voluntarily at normal times was strictly forbidden,
and the police took up and imprisoned any idlers or vagabonds found
wandering in the towns. But even in those days Monday was often taken
as an unauthorized holiday. Certain crafts had their regular dead
season:[16] thus at Paris among the bucklers (makers of brass buckles)
the _valets_ were dismissed during the month of August; but such
holidays, probably unpaid, were rare, as was also the arrangement to be
found among the weavers at Lunéville, which limited the amount of work
a journeyman might do in a day.

For various reasons it is difficult to state precisely what wages were
paid; there are very few documents; the price of labour varied very
much in different crafts and at different periods; the buying power
of money at any given time is a difficult matter to determine;[17]
and finally, it was the custom to pay a workman partly with money and
partly in kind. It must not be forgotten too that a man ate with his
master, a decided economy on the one hand, and on the other a guarantee
that he was decently fed. Sometimes he received an ell of cloth, a
suit of clothes, or a pair of shoes.[18] It has been stated that his
wages (which were paid weekly or fortnightly) were, in the thirteenth
century, enough for him to live on decently.[19] It has been possible
to reconstruct the earnings and expenditure of a fuller at Léon in
the year 1280; the inventory of a soap-maker of Bruges of about the
same date[20] has been published; it has been estimated that in those
days the daily wage of a _compagnon_ at Aix-la-Chapelle was worth
two geese, and his weekly wage a sheep; comparisons have been made,
and it has been concluded that a workman earned more in Flanders than
in Paris, more in Paris than in the provinces. All this seems likely
enough; but I should not dare to generalize from such problematic
calculations. I limit myself to stating that historians are almost
unanimous in holding that, taking into consideration that less was
spent on food, rent, and furniture, and above all on intellectual needs
(because both the demands were less and the prices lower), it was
easier for a workman's family to make both ends meet in those days than
it is now.

It is at any rate certain that a journeyman's salary was sometimes
guaranteed to him; this is shown by an article of the regulations in
force among the tailors of Montpellier, dated July 3, 1323:

"If a master does one of his workmen a wrong in connection with the
wages due to him, that master must be held to give satisfaction to the
said workman, according to the judgment of the other masters; and, if
he does not do this, no workman may henceforward work with him until he
is acquitted; and, in case of non-payment, he must give and hand over
to the relief fund of the guild ten 'deniers tournois' [of Tours]."

On the whole, then, in spite of the varying conditions in the Middle
Ages, it is not too much to say that, materially, the position of
the journeyman was at least equal, if not superior, to that of the
workman of to-day. It was also better morally. He sometimes assisted
in the drawing up and execution of the laws of the community; he was
his master's companion in ideas, beliefs, education, tastes. Above
all, there was the possibility of rising one day to the same social
level. Certainly one paid and the other was paid, and that alone was
enough to set up a barrier between the two. But where "small" industry
predominated, there was not as yet a violent and lasting struggle
between two diametrically opposed classes. Nevertheless, from this time
onwards, an ever-increasing strife and discord may be traced.

First the privileges accorded to the sons of masters tended to close
the guilds and to keep the workmen in the position of wage-earners;
this gave rise to serious dissatisfaction. Besides this, the masters
were not always just, as even their statutes prove. Those of the
tailors of Montpellier, which we have just quoted, decreed that the
workshops of every master who had defrauded a workman of his wages
should be boycotted. These injustices therefore must have occurred,
since trouble was taken to repress them. Still more acute was the
dissatisfaction in towns where the rudiments of "great" industry
existed. Strikes broke out, with a spice of violence. In 1280 the
cloth-workers of Provins rose and killed the mayor;[21] at Ypres, at
the same date, there was a similar revolt for a similar reason, viz.
the attempt to impose on the workmen too long a working day. At Chalon,
the king of France had to intervene to regulate the hours of labour.
Already the question of combination was discussed, and the masters did
their best to prevent it. At Rheims in 1292 a decision by arbitration
prohibited alliances whether of _compagnons_ against masters or of
masters against _compagnons_. This already displays the spirit of
the famous law which was to be voted by the Constituent Assembly in
1791.[22] In the year 1280, in the _Coutume de Beauvoisis_ by the
jurist Beaumanoir, the combination of workmen is clearly defined as an
offence[23]--"any alliance against the common profit, when any class
of persons pledge themselves, undertake, or covenant not to work at so
low a wage as before, and so raise their wages on their own authority,
agree not to work for less, and combine to put constraint or threats on
the _compagnons_ who will not enter their alliance."

The attempt to raise wages by combination was condemned under the
pretext that it would make everything dearer, and was punished by the
lord by fine and imprisonment.

One can see in these and other symptoms signs of the coming storm.
The workmen protested against the importation of foreign workers as
lowering the price of labour, and made them submit to an entrance
fee. They attempted to secure a monopoly of work, just as the masters
attempted to secure the monopoly of this or that manufacture. Thus
amongst the nail-makers of Paris[24] it was forbidden to hire a
_compagnon_ from elsewhere, as long as one belonging to the district
was left in the market. Even in the religious brotherhoods, which
usually united master and workman at the same altar, a division
occurred, and in certain crafts the journeymen formed separate
brotherhoods: the working bakers of Toulouse, the working shoemakers
of Paris, set up their brotherhoods in opposition to the corresponding
societies of masters, and this shows that the dim consciousness of the
possession of distinct interests and rights was waking within them.[25]

6. Finally we should take into account the condition of the masters
in the lesser guilds where the workshop remained small, intimate, and
homely, but these we shall constantly meet with again when we come to
study the life and purpose of the guilds, since it was they who made
the statutes and administered them. For the present it is enough to
mention that women were not excluded from guild life. It would be a
mistake to imagine that the woman of the Middle Ages was confined to
her home, and was ignorant of the difficulties of a worker's life.
In those days she had an economic independence, such as is hardly to
be met with in our own times. In many countries she possessed, for
instance, the power to dispose of her property without her husband's
permission. It is therefore natural that there should be women's guilds
organized and administered like those of the men. They existed in
exclusively feminine crafts: fifteen of them were to be found in Paris
alone towards the end of the thirteenth century, in the dressmaking
industry and among the silk-workers and gold-thread workers especially.
There were also the mixed crafts--that is, crafts followed both by men
and women--which in Paris numbered about eighty. In them a master's
widow had the right to carry on her husband's workshop after his death.
This right was often disputed. Thus in 1263 the bakers of Pontoise
attempted to take it from the women, under the pretext that they were
not strong enough to knead the bread with their own hands; their
claims, however, were dismissed by an ordinance of the _Parlement_.
Another decree preserved to the widows this right even when they were
remarried to a man not of the craft.

Nevertheless, in many towns, above all in those where entry into a
guild conferred political rights and imposed military duties, the
women could not become masters. Condemned to remain labourers, working
at home, and for this reason isolated, they appear to have been paid
lower wages than the workmen; and certain documents show them seeking
in prostitution a supplement to their meagre wages, or appropriating
some of the raw silk entrusted to them to wind and spin. But other
documents show them as benefiting by humane measures which the
workwomen of to-day might envy them. They were forbidden to work in the
craft of "Saracen" carpet-making, because of the danger of injuring
themselves during pregnancy. This protective legislation dates from the
year 1290: for them, as for children, exhausting and killing days of
work were yet to come.[26] All the same, one can see the tendency to
keep them in an inferior position for life, and, taken along with the
strikes and revolts, the first appearances of which amongst weavers,
fullers, and cloth-workers we have already mentioned, this clearly
shows that, side by side with the half-democratic guilds which were the
humblest, there existed others of a very different type.

7. Directly we go on to study the great commercial and industrial
guilds profound inequalities appear. Nor do these disappear with time;
whether we deal with the bankers' or with the drapers' guilds, we find
that their organization is already founded on the capitalist system.
The masters, often grouped together in companies, are great personages,
rich tradesmen, influential politicians, separated from those they
employ by a deep and permanent gulf.

The river merchants of Paris, the Flemish and German Hanse, the
English Guild Merchants, and the _Arte di Calimala_ in the commune
of Florence,[27] may be taken as types of the great commercial
guilds. They were the first to succeed in making their power felt,
and represent, first by right of priority, and later by right of
wealth, all that existed in the way of business, the _Universitas
mercatorum_, and they long retained an uncontested supremacy. Not only
the whole body, but the heads of the houses or societies dependent
on them, had numberless subordinates, destined for the most part
to remain subordinates--cashiers, book-keepers, porters, brokers,
carriers, agents, messengers. These paid agents--often sent abroad
to the depots, branch houses, bonded warehouses, _fondouks_, owned
collectively or individually by the wholesale merchants whose servants
they were--were always under the strictest regulations. Take, for
instance, the prohibition to marry which the Hanseatic League imposed
on the young employees whom it planted like soldiers in the countries
with which it traded. Nor was the Florentine _Arte di Calimala_, so
called after the ill-famed street in which its rich and sombre shops
were situated, any more lenient to those of its agents who, especially
in France, were set to watch over its interests. The merchants
of the Calimala--buyers, finishers, and retailers of fine cloth,
money-changers too, and great business magnates, constantly acting as
mediums of communication between the West and the East--were far from
treating their indispensable but untrustworthy subordinates in a spirit
of brotherhood. They looked on them with suspicion as inferiors.
They complain of their "unbridled malice";[28] they reproach them,
and probably not without reason, with making their fortunes at the
expense of the firms which paid them. It was decided that in the case
of a dispute as to wages, if nothing had been arranged in writing,
the master could settle the matter at will without being bound by
precedent or by anything he had paid in a similar case. If the employee
was unlucky enough to return to Florence much richer than he left it,
he was at once spied upon, information was lodged against him, and
an inquiry instituted by the consuls of the guild; after which he
was summoned to appear and made to disgorge and restore his unlawful
profits. If he could not explain the origin of his surplus gains, he
was treated as a bankrupt, his name and effigy were posted up, and
the town authority was appealed to that he might be tortured till a
confession of theft or fraud was forced from him; he was then banished
from the Commune. Thus we see exasperated masters dealing severely with
dishonest servants: capital ruling labour without tact or consideration.

The autocratic and capitalistic character of the great industrial
guilds is even more striking.[29]

The woollen industry offers the most remarkable instances. The
manufacture of cloth (which was the principal article of export to the
Levantine markets) was the most advanced and the most active industry
of the Middle Ages, with its appliances already half mechanical,
supplying distant customers scattered all over the world. It was the
prelude to that intensity of production in modern times which is the
result of international commerce.

The wholesale cloth merchants no longer worked with their own
hands; they confined themselves to giving orders and superintending
everything; they supplied the initiative; they were the prime movers
in the weaving trades which depended on their orders; they regulated
the quantity and quality of production; they raised the price of raw
material, and the workmen's wages; they often provided the appliances
for work; they undertook the sale and distribution of goods, taking the
risks, but also the profits. Already they were capitalists, fulfilling
all the functions of captains of industry.

What became, then, of the intimate and cordial relations between
masters, journeymen, and apprentices? The guilds began to assume a
character unlike anything which could exist among the clothiers or
blacksmiths for instance. This new state of affairs suddenly arose at
Florence in the _Arte della Lana_. At some periods of its existence
this guild had a membership of 20,000 to 30,000, but it was like a
pyramid, with a very large base, numerous tiers, and a very small apex.
At the summit were the masters, who were recruited entirely from among
the rich families and formed a solid alliance for the defence of their
own interests. Forced to guard against the perils which threatened
their business on every hand--the difficulty of transport, a foreign
country closed to them by war or by a tariff, the jealousy of rival
towns--they tried to recoup themselves by employing cheap labour, and,
remembering the maxim "divide and rule," they ranked the workmen they
employed in different degrees of dependence and poverty.

Some classes of workers, such as dyers and retailers, were affiliated
to the _arte_ under the name of inferior _membri_. True, they were
allowed certain advantages, a shadow of autonomy, and liberty of
association, but at the same time they were kept under strict rules and
under the vow to obey officers nominated by the masters alone. Thus the
dyers were not allowed to work on their own account, and were subject
to heavy fines if the goods entrusted to them suffered the slightest
damage; the rate of wages was fixed, but not the date of payment, which
was invariably delayed.

On a lower tier came the weavers and the male and female spinners;
both classes were isolated home-workers under the system of domestic
manufacture, which is highly unfavourable to combination and therefore
to the independence of the workers. The weavers, whether proprietors
or lessees of their trade, could not set up without the permission
of the masters who held the monopoly of wool, on whom they therefore
became entirely dependent. They were pieceworkers and had no guaranteed
schedule of prices.

The spinners lived for the most part in the country, and this country
labour served, as usual, to lower the rate of wages in the towns;
perhaps this was why the Florentine tradesmen favoured the abolition
of serfdom, for the reason that its abolition took the peasants from
the land and left them free but without property, thus forcing them
to hire themselves out, and so creating a reserve army for the needs
of industry. The masters invented a curious method of keeping the
women weavers in their power. Every year the consuls obtained pastoral
letters from the bishops of Fiesole and Florence, which, at Christmas,
Easter, Whitsuntide, and All Saints, were read in the villages from
the bishop's throne. In these letters the careless spinner who
wasted the wool which had been entrusted to her was threatened with
ecclesiastical censure and even with excommunication if she repeated
the offence. An excellent idea indeed, to use the thunderbolts of the
Church for the benefit of the great manufacturers!

On a lower tier again we find the washers, beaters, and carders of
wool, the fullers and the soapboilers, who formed the lowest grade of
the labouring classes--a true industrial proletariat,--wage-earners
already living under the régime of modern manufacture. They were
crowded together in large workshops, subjected to a rigorous
discipline, compelled to come and go at the sound of the bell, paid
at the will of the masters--and always in silver or copper, or in
small coin which was often debased,--supervised by foremen, and
placed under the authority of an external official who was a sort of
industrial magistrate or policeman chosen by the consuls of the _arte_
and empowered to inflict fines, discharges, and punishments, and even
imprisonment and torture. In addition, these tools or subjects of the
guilds were absolutely forbidden to combine, to act in concert, to
assemble together, or even to emigrate. They were the victims of an
almost perfect system of slavery.

This short sketch shows how necessary it is to discriminate between the
various types of guilds. But, however much they differed in their inner
characteristics, they shared many points of resemblance which we must
now proceed to examine.



The administration of the guilds was everywhere almost uniform. The
guild was a voluntary association of men carrying on the same trade or
allied trades and pledging themselves by oath to defend their common
interests. It demanded of those who, in virtue of their mastership,
wished to belong to it, proofs of capability, morality, orthodoxy,
political loyalty, and often the regular payment of a contribution.
Once enrolled, a member could not leave without first publicly
announcing his intention to do so, and discharging any debts owing
to the guild. He could be expelled for any serious breach of its
regulations or of the laws of the state.

The association thus constituted was autonomous; it was a moral and
legal person; it could possess wealth in lands, houses, money, or
bonds; it could contract, bargain, bind itself, appear in court through
representatives whom it nominated (syndics, proctors, etc.). It had its
guild halls, which were decorated with its coats-of-arms. It had its
banner, funds, seal, and archives. It was, then, within the limits of
its jurisdiction, self-governing. Its constitution was semi-democratic
in the sense that the masters of whom it was composed were looked on
as possessing equal rights. The legislative power was in the hands of
the General Assembly, which made, or at least sanctioned, the statutes
and the revisions of the rules, and it is remarkable that from one end
of Europe to the other identical formulae on more than one point are
found; the words relating to the subject of prohibition, for example:
"Let none presume or be so bold as to...."[30]

No act of any importance pledging the whole guild could be carried
through without the advice and ratification of the assembly. The
interests involved were, however, so complex, the business of such
daily occurrence, that it would have been impossible to convoke the
assembly on every occasion; it therefore became necessary to create an
organ of government, an executive, and at the same time a judicial,
power--in other words, to nominate officers to act in the name of the
guild. The method of nomination varied in every age and region. In
most cases the election was made directly by the masters alone, or
indirectly by electors whom they nominated; sometimes, but rarely, the
inferior _members_ of the complex guilds, journeymen of the simple
guilds, took part, and a certain number of those elected belonged to
their group. In other cases the nomination depended on the lord or on
some one to whom he had delegated his authority; in others it was held
by the municipal magistrates, as at Toulouse; and in others again the
resigning officials nominated their successors or filled vacancies as
they occurred. In Italy there were complicated systems in imitation
of those in use for the communal magistracies. The candidates' names
were proposed, and accepted or rejected by acclamation or by secret
ballots; those approved were written on tickets which were placed
in sealed and padlocked bags. In this way a supply of candidates was
provided for several years, and whenever necessary, a child or a
priest drew at hazard one of the names for each post.[31] This curious
combination of chance and of popular choice was often to be met with in
the Italian Republics. At Arras, in the butchers' guild, as many balls
of wax as there were masters present were placed in an urn. The words
"Jésus-Marie" were inscribed on one of the balls, and the man who drew
it became head of the guild.

In course of time the right to office was restricted by an age limit,
by a longer or shorter period of matriculation, and even by wealth or
social standing. Thus, among the old-clothes dealers of Florence no one
who cried his goods in the streets, and among the bakers, no one who
carried bread from house to house on his back or on his head, could be
elected rector.

The officials thus nominated (and none could escape the duty which
fell to him) were sometimes quite numerous; the _Arte di Calimala_
at Florence had four consuls, a treasurer or _camérier_, a cashier,
a syndic, and a proctor, not to mention two notaries and other
subordinate officers whom the consuls chose with the assistance of
a general council, and of a special council of the guild. The heads
or chiefs were called in the south of France, _consuls_, _recteurs_,
_bailes_, _surposés_, etc.; those in the north were called _gardes_,
_eswards_, _jurés_, _prud'hommes_, _maïeurs de bannières_, etc. In
certain texts one comes across "bachelor" masons and carpenters,
curious titles given to ex-officers, who, though they had resigned
their headship, might still have some official duties.[32]

These officers were usually not long in power--sometimes only a few
months, and practically never longer than a year; their duties ended
with a statement of accounts which carried with it ineligibility to
re-election for a certain time.

There was always a fear of creating magisterial dynasties which might
perpetuate themselves at will, and of encouraging the development of
cliques; for these reasons several members of a family or business
house were not allowed to sit on the guild committee simultaneously.

The reason why so much trouble was taken to divide the responsibilities
was because they conferred considerable power and entailed a great
deal of absorbing work. The heads of the guilds, by whatever name
they were called, took an oath that they would first and foremost see
that the rules were carried out--no easy matter. In this respect they
had legal powers, and they not only acted as arbiters in the quarrels
which arose among the members, but also in the conflicts which in the
great merchant guilds might arise in the course of trade even with
foreigners: disputes over weights and measures, bankruptcies, frauds,
reprisals, etc. They were, in fact, public officials, and their
consular tribunals were to become in time the organs of the Commune.
In the industrial guilds they had to watch over production, inspect
the articles of manufacture in the workshops, to make sure that they
were in conformity with the prescribed rules. In cases of delinquency
they had the right to seize and burn the goods and to inflict a fine
on the offenders. In some places it was their duty to protect the
apprentices, to examine the candidates for mastership, and to provide
the necessary funds for the pious works which were under the control of
the community.

At Florence the _Arte di Calimala_ had the care of the monastery of San
Miniato, the baptistery of St. Jean, and the hospital of St. Eusèbe;
the _Arte della Lana_ took charge of the building and decoration of
the dome. In short, everything which could contribute to the welfare
and reputation of the guild was under the jurisdiction of the heads,
who, controlled by their colleagues, had thus an extensive sphere of

The consuls of the Calimala had among their duties the maintenance of
roads and hostels, and even the safe conduct of Florentine travellers
in a district extending as far as the fairs of Champagne and St. Gilles.

But it will be easier to judge of the multiplicity of duties which
the guilds demanded of their officers if their aims are more closely
studied, and this will best be done by carefully investigating their
guiding principles as shown in their statutes.



The guilds appear to have had three essential aims: an _economic_ aim,
a _social and moral_ aim, and a _political_ aim.

1. The economic aim comes first in time and importance. The guild
was first and foremost a fighting organization for the defence of
the trade interests of those who belonged to it. It was jealous both
of the welfare and of the honour of the craft--two things intimately
connected; for it realized that good reputation is one of the
conditions of good business. Naturally the first means to suggest
itself for the attainment of this double ideal was the regulation of
_production_ and _sale_.

With regard to production, the guilds prided themselves on giving an
official guarantee to the consumer. Hence the many articles contained
in the statutes in which they boast of their good faith,[33] or make a
point of emphasizing the honesty of their trade dealings; hence their
complicated regulations, often so misunderstood by historians, for the
prevention of bad work; hence the minute instructions prescribing the
number of vats into which the Florentine dyer was to dip his materials
and the quantity and quality of the colouring matters he was to
employ; the size of the meshes in the nets which the Roman fisherman
was to cast into the Tiber;[34] the length of the pieces of linen to
be woven by the Parisian spinner, regulated by that of the tablecloths
which covered the table of "good King Philip";[35] or the colour and
size of the garments which the silk workers of Constantinople were to

In pursuance of the same principle, and on the authority of the
Statutes--intervention on the part of the public authorities not being
required--it was strictly forbidden, under penalty of a fine or of
expulsion, to sell damaged meat, bad fish, rotten eggs,[37] or pigs
which had been fed by a barber-surgeon who might have fattened them
on the blood of sick people.[38] The dyers pledged themselves to use
nothing but fast colours, furriers to use only skins which had not
been previously used, mattress-makers never to employ wool coming from
hospitals. The tailor who spoilt a garment or kept a piece of cloth
entrusted to him was made to pay back his client and was punished by
his fellows. In Maine a butcher might not display a piece of beef on
his stall unless two witnesses could testify to having seen the animal
brought in alive.[39] If by any chance an article passed through the
hands of two craft guilds, delegates from each had to assure themselves
that the rules of both had been faithfully observed.[40]

The guild prided itself on letting nothing leave its shops but finished
products, perfect of their kind; it examined and stamped every article,
and further required that it should bear a special trade-mark stating
where it was made and its just price.[41] At Ypres, towards the end of
the thirteenth century, the pieces of cloth thus officially accepted
numbered 8000 a year. Nor was this all; like Caesar's wife, the guild
must be above suspicion; not only fraud, but the very appearance of
fraud was rigorously excluded, all that might deceive the buyer was
forbidden. In Florence jewellers might not use sham stones, even if
they declared them to be such;[42] in Paris it was forbidden to make
glass jewels in imitation of real stones, or to put a leaf of metal
under an emerald to give it an artificial brilliance;[43] plated and
lined goods were not allowed, as they might be mistaken for solid gold
or silver.[44] Once when a goldsmith, thinking no harm, had made a bowl
of this kind, it was decided, after deliberation, to sell it secretly,
and he was cautioned never to make another.

Sale was as carefully watched over as production. Not only had the
weights and measures to be verified and controlled in conformity with
carefully preserved standards, but at Florence, for instance, the
"iron ruler" of the _Calimala_ was the standard for measuring woollen
materials, and there were besides minute directions for measuring;
there were prescribed methods for measuring a piece of cloth, or for
filling a bushel with onions by placing the arms round the edge in
order to add to the contents and ensure good measure.[45]

In "great" commerce the guild regulated the conditions which made
a bargain valid, the duty of paying the _denier à Dieu_, and the
earnest-money, the regular term for completing payment, the rate of
discount, and the transparent methods of avoiding the ban placed on
interest by the Church,[46] the methods of book-keeping, etc. By means
of these Statutes commerce was eventually to emerge armed with full
rights; and as the failure of one member to fulfil his undertakings
might compromise all the others, we can understand, even if we cannot
approve, the severity of the penalties inflicted on a bankrupt, the
posting up of his name and effigy, his expulsion from the guild, his
imprisonment and occasionally his banishment from the city.

One serious result of this constant and perfectly legitimate effort to
assure the success of the guild was that it produced a strong desire
to reduce, or if possible do away with, competition. The Middle Ages
did not understand rights except under the form of privileges, and the
guild always tended to arrogate to itself the monopoly of the craft
which it carried on in a city. It even tried to exclude neighbouring
towns from the market, and this was the secret of the desperate
struggles which set at enmity Bruges and Ghent, Siena, Pisa, and
Florence, Genoa and Venice, etc.

There is ample proof of this exclusive spirit. At first the guilds
tried to keep their processes secret, just as to-day a nation makes a
mystery of its new submarine or explosive. Woe to him who betrayed
the secret which gave the guild its superiority over the others! He
was punished by his fellows and by the law. The merchants of the
Calimala swore not to reveal what was said in the Councils of the
guild. Florence owed part of her wealth to the fact that for long she
alone knew the secret of making gold and silver brocade. A tragic
example of what it might cost to be indiscreet may be found in a
Venetian law of 1454: "If a workman carry into another country any
art or craft to the detriment of the Republic, he will be ordered to
return; if he disobeys, his nearest relatives will be imprisoned, in
order that the solidarity of the family may persuade him to return;
if he persists in his disobedience, secret measures will be taken to
have him killed wherever he may be." The following is an example of the
jealous care with which the guild tried to prevent any encroachment on
its domain: in Paris the guild of the bird fanciers attempted, though
unsuccessfully, to prevent citizens from setting on eggs canaries which
they had caged, as it injured the trade of the guild.[47]

It may well be imagined that guilds so jealous of their prerogatives
did not make it easy for merchants and workmen coming in from outside.
In the free towns (i.e. towns in which industry was organised) a
master's licence obtained in a neighbouring, or even a sister, town,
was invalid, just as to-day the diploma of doctor of medicine gained in
one country does not carry with it the right to practise in another.
To open a shop, it was necessary to have served an apprenticeship in
that city; or at the very least it was necessary to have learnt the
trade for the same number of years demanded of the apprentices in that
district. The merchants who came from other parts, not like birds of
passage to disappear with the fairs, but to settle down and establish
themselves in a country, were subject to the same dues as the citizens,
but did not share with them the franchise and might not join their
guilds. They formed colonies and attempted to obtain, or even bought
permission to reside and trade; but they ran the risk of being arrested
or turned out at any moment, especially if they were money-lenders, as,
for instance, the Lombards, who both in France and England many a time
suffered from these intermittent persecutions. Outsiders, even though
in many cases they had originally come from the district, were hampered
by all sorts of restraints and obligations. In short, the town market
was usually reserved for the citizens of the town, and the policy
of the guilds (with occasional exceptions on the part of the great
commercial guilds) was to shut the door to all foreign goods which
they could produce themselves. Even within the city walls it was their
ambition to ruin, or to force into their ranks, free lances of the same
trade;[48] and although the word "boycott" was not then invented, the
thing itself already existed, and was practised when necessary.

This tendency to preserve craft monopoly led to other practices, and
we find each guild jealously guarding its particular province against
all intruders. Doubtless in those days an article was as a rule wholly
produced in a single workshop, but it sometimes happened that an
article had to pass through the hands of more than one craft guild;
this was the case with cloth, leather, and arms. Sometimes, again, a
craft which began by being simple became so complex that its very
development forced it to split up. Thus we find in some large towns
that the wine merchants were subdivided into five classes: wholesale
merchants; _hôteliers_ (hotel-keepers), who lodged and catered;
_cabaretiers_ (inn-keepers), who served food and drink; _taverniers_
(publicans), who served drink only; and _marchands à pot_ (bottlers),
who retailed wine to be taken away. It followed that the dividing line
between guild and guild was often very doubtful, and this situation was
continually giving rise to differences, quarrels, and lawsuits, some of
which lasted for centuries.

In one case[49] we find a currier, who had taken to tanning, forced
to choose between the two trades; in another we find goldsmiths
forbidden to encroach on the business of money-changing. Interminable
disputes dragged on between the tailors, who sold new clothes, and
the sellers of old clothes,[50] and the courts laboured for years and
years to fix the exact moment at which a new suit became an old one!
The harness makers quarrelled with the saddlers; the sword polishers
with the sword-pommel makers; the bakers with the confectioners; the
cooks with the mustard makers; the woollen merchants with the fullers;
the leather-dressers with the shamoy-dressers; the dealers in geese
with the poulterers, etc, etc.[51] When it was not a question of the
right of manufacture, they quarrelled over the best pitches. At Paris
the money-changers of the Pont-au-Change complained that the approach
to their shop was obstructed by the birdsellers, and tried to force
them to settle elsewhere. The wheelwrights established in the Rue
de la Charronnerie (it might have happened yesterday) compelled the
clothes-sellers to move about with their hand-barrows, instead of
taking up their station in their neighbourhood. These ever-recurring
legal disputes were inherent in the guild system and could only
disappear with the system itself.

Lastly, this competition for monopolies made itself felt in the very
heart of each guild. It led directly to rigorous limitation of the
number of masters. If, in fact, all those who were qualified to receive
mastership had been left free to set up, those who first held the
privilege would have risked being lost in the crowd of newcomers. This
explains why even here they sought to reduce competition to a minimum.
Only six barbers were allowed in Limoges, and when one of them died,
his successor was elected after a competitive examination. At Angers
the head of the guild only created new master butchers every seven
years, and even then it was necessary to obtain the consent of the
other masters.[52] In certain towns when a family in possession of a
craft died out, its house of business and appliances reverted to the
guild, which indemnified the heirs.[53] It was an expense, but it meant
one competitor the less. Is it to be wondered at that mastership in
many crafts gradually became hereditary? It was only necessary to push
the principle a little further. If we consult the _Book of Crafts_
drawn up by Étienne Boileau from 1261 to 1270 by order of Louis IX.,
we read in the Statutes of the napery weavers of Paris: "No one may be
master weaver except the son of a master." Thus, from the thirteenth
century, guild organization, in the pursuit of its economic ends,
closed its ranks and tended to become a narrow oligarchy.

2. The second ruling idea of the Guild Statutes was the pursuit of
moral and social aims; it desired to establish between the masters of
which it was composed honest competition--"fair play." It desired to
prevent the great from crushing the small, the rich from ruining the
poor, and, in order to succeed, it tried to make advantages and charges
equal for all. Its motto so far was: Solidarity.

Thus, every member was forbidden to buy up raw material for his own
profit. If the arrival of fresh fish, hay, wine, wheat, or leather was
announced, no one might forestall the others and buy cheaply to sell
dearly; all should profit equally by the natural course of events. When
a merchant treated with a seller who had come into the town, any of his
fellows who happened to come in at the moment when the earnest-money
was paid and the striking of hands in ratification of the bargain
took place, had the right to claim a share in the transaction and to
obtain the goods in question at the same price.[54] Sometimes, in order
to avoid abuses, anything which had come within the city walls was
divided into portions and the distribution made in the presence of an
official (_prud'homme_), who saw that the allocation was just, that
is to say, in proportion to the needs of each shop or workshop.[55]
Often the maximum amount which an individual might acquire was strictly
laid down. At Rome a mattress maker might not buy more than a thousand
pounds of horse hair at a time, nor a shoemaker more than twenty
skins. To make assurance doubly sure, the community, when it was rich,
undertook to do the buying for its members. At Florence the _Arte della
Lana_ became the middleman;[56] it bought wholesale the wool, kermes,
alum, and oil, which it distributed according to a uniform tariff
amongst its members, in proportion to their requirements; it possessed,
in its own name, warehouses, shops, wash-houses, and dyeing-houses,
which were used by all. Thus it came to carry out transactions to
the loss of the common funds but to the profit of all the master
woollen merchants. It even helped the masters with any available
funds by financing them. Again, at its own expense, it introduced new
manufactures or called in foreign workmen. Later on it even possessed
its own ships for the transport of the merchandise which it imported or
exported. It acted like a trust or cartel.

Still with a view to equalizing matters between masters, the cornering
of the supply of labour was forbidden, and not only was it forbidden
to tempt away a rival's workmen by the offer of a higher wage,[57] but
as a rule a man might not keep more apprentices than others, and the
spirit of equality was carried to such lengths on this point that at
Paris,[58] among the leather-dressers, no master who employed three or
more workmen might refuse to give up one of them to any fellow-master
who had in hand a pressing piece of work and only one, or no, _valet_
to execute it.

For the same reason a workman might not complete work begun by another
man and taken away from him. Even the doctors at Florence might not
undertake the cure of a patient who had already been attended by
a colleague; but this rule was repealed, no doubt because it was
dangerous to the patients.[59]

Again, it was forbidden to monopolize customers, to invite into your
own shop the people who had stopped before a neighbour's display of
goods, to call in the passers-by, or to send a piece of cloth on
approbation to a customer's house.[60] All individual advertisement
was looked on as tending to the detriment of others. The Florentine
innkeeper who gave wine or food to a stranger with the object of
attracting him to his hostelry was liable to a fine.[61] Equally open
to punishment was the merchant who obtained possession of another man's
shop by offering the landlord a higher rent. Any bonus offered to a
buyer was considered an unlawful and dishonest bait.

The formation within the guild of a separate league for the sale of
goods at a rebate was prohibited; prices, conditions of payment, the
rate of discount, and the hours of labour in the workshops were the
same for all members. Privileges and charges had to be the same for all
masters, even when the masters were women.

One feels that there was a desire to unite the masters into one large
family. So true was this that, in commercial matters, not only was
father responsible for son, brother for brother, and uncle for nephew,
not only were the ties of unity strengthened at regular intervals by
guild feasts and banquets, but the ordinary dryness of the statutes
was redeemed by rules of real brotherhood. The merchant or craftsman
found in his craft guild security in times of trouble, monetary
help in times of poverty, and medical assistance in case of illness.
At Florence the carpenters and masons had their own hospital. When
a member died, shops were shut, every one attended his funeral, and
masses were said for his soul. In short, within a single guild all
rivals were also _confrères_ in the full and beautiful sense which the
word has now lost.

These rules of brotherhood were often accompanied by moral and
religious rules; the guild watched over the good conduct and good name
of its members. To be proconsul in the _Arte_ of judges and lawyers at
Florence, a man had to be respected for his piety, his good reputation,
his pure life, and proven honesty; he must be faithful and devoted
to the Holy Roman Church, sound in body and mind, and born in lawful
wedlock. To be received as a master, it was necessary almost everywhere
to make a profession of the Catholic faith and to take the oath, in
order that heretics such as the Patarini and Albigenses might be kept
out. Punishments were inflicted on blasphemers, players of games of
chance, and even usurers. It was obligatory to stop work on Sundays
and holidays, and to take part with great pomp and banners unfurled in
the feasts of the patron saint of the town and of the guild, not to
mention a host of other saints of whom a list was given. The statutes
often begin by enumerating the alms it was thought necessary to bestow
on certain monasteries and works of mercy and instruction which they
promised to support out of their funds.[62]

But in these works the guild was often duplicated and supplemented by
another institution connected with it--the fraternity.

The fraternity appears to have been anterior to the trade association
in some places;[63] but whether older or younger it remained closely
united with it. Born in the shadow of the sanctuary, it had aims that
were fundamentally religious and charitable; it was always under the
tutelage of a saint, who, on account of some incident taken from his
mortal life, became the patron of the corresponding trade. Thus, St.
Éloi was patron of the goldsmiths, St. Vincent of the vinegrowers, St.
Fiacre of the gardeners, St. Blaise of the masons, St. Crespin of the
shoemakers, St. Julien of the village fiddlers, etc. Every fraternity
had its appointed church, and, in this church, a chapel dedicated to
its heavenly protector, in which candles or lamps were kept burning. It
celebrated an annual festival which generally ended with a merry feast
or "_frairie_," as it was still called in the days of La Fontaine.[64]
It joined in processions and shared in the election of church-wardens.

Apart from the obligatory assistance at certain offices and at the
funerals of its members, the fraternity owned a _chest_, that is to
say, a fund maintained out of the subscriptions and voluntary donations
of the members, as well as by the fines which they incurred. Of these
funds, collected from various sources, part was given to the poor,
to the hospitals, and to the expenses of worship. Thus at Rennes the
fraternity of bakers ordained that in every batch of bread one loaf
of fair size should be set apart, called the _tourteau-Dieu_, which
brings to mind the portion for God or the poor which it was the custom
to reserve when the king's cakes were distributed. In Alsace, again, in
the bakers' fraternities, strict by-laws regulated the treatment of
the sick in hospital;[65] they were to be given confession, communion,
a clean bed, and with every meal a jug of wine, sufficient bread, a
good basin of soup, meat, eggs, or fish; and all were to be treated

The chest served also for supplying dowries to the poor girls of the
fraternity, which, it will be seen, very much resembled a friendly
society, but which, in addition, sometimes took upon itself powers of
arbitration, as in the case of the furriers of Lyons.[66] Sometimes the
fraternity coincided with the guild--that is, all the members of the
latter, including the journeymen, took part in it; more often, however,
it was merely an affiliated institution, and membership was optional.
It is curious to find that it was not looked on with much favour by the
higher ecclesiastics or by royalty,[67] perhaps because, not having the
defence of trade interests as its object, it attempted to dictate in
Church matters and was concerned with politics; perhaps also because it
increased the number of guild banquets which easily degenerated into
orgies and brawls.

This leads us to the relation between the guilds and the public
authorities, and to the part which they played in the political life of
the Middle Ages.

3. The guilds necessarily came into relation with the authorities; they
were far from being absolutely sovereign communities, unrelated to the
society around them. They retained ties of dependence which reminded
them that their emancipation was both recent and incomplete.

In the first place it must not be forgotten that in most cases they
had extorted or bought from the lord their earliest privileges.
According to the feudal conception, the right to work was a concession
which he granted or refused at will, and it followed that he kept
the prerogatives of supervising and regulating the guilds, whose
existence he sanctioned and protected. Thus at Rouen, towards the
end of the twelfth century, Henry II., King of England and Duke of
Normandy, sanctioned an association founded by the tanners, with its
customs and monopolies, giving as his reason for so doing, the services
which this industry rendered him. At Étampes, at the beginning of the
thirteenth century, Philip Augustus of France made known "to all those,
present and future, who should read these letters" that he permitted
the weavers of linen and napery to organize as they chose, and that
he exempted them from all obligations towards himself, except the
payment of the market toll, military service, and a fine in case of
bloodshed.[68] He did this, he said, for the love of God, which does
not mean that he did it gratis; for in return for their freedom these
craftsmen had to pay the king twenty pounds a year.

The lords maintained their authority everywhere by exacting payment for
the favours they granted. They did not, however, always exercise this
authority directly, but often delegated it to their great officers. The
Parisian guilds were under the orders of the provost of Paris, who was
the king's agent and police magistrate; and traces are to be found of
the time when craftsmen, living on the lands of the lord, were grouped
under the direction of a headman nominated by him. In those days the
nobles, who divided between themselves the domestic services of his
house, naturally kept a firm hand over the craftsmen whose duties were
allied to their own. Thus at Troyes, capital of the Court of Champagne,
the bakers were under his _grand panetier_, the tapestry-makers
and _huchiers_ under his _grand chambrier_, the saddlers under the
constable, etc., and a similar organization was to be found in every
feudal court. At Rome, every guild had at its head a cardinal, who
was its protector and superintendent. But by degrees the power of
these dignitaries became nominal, till it was reduced to being merely
honorary and lucrative. They contented themselves with the revenues
brought in by their duties, and with certain privileges attached to
them. They gave or sold the rights which their titles conferred on
them, to some private individual, usually to the master of the guild,
who, under the name of "master of the craft," really held the power.

In the free communities and in the free towns which had become
collective lordships the control, superintendence, and direction of the
crafts passed, by a natural transference of power, to the municipal
magistrates. There were thus (and nothing was more common in the Middle
Ages than these ill-defined situations) rivalries and struggles for
jurisdiction between the various authorities, from which the guilds
were never free.[69]

The very fact that they had to reckon with neighbouring and superior
powers taught them to understand that the possession of political
rights was a means of defending their economic interests, an
indispensable condition in the guidance of public affairs to their own
advantage. Accordingly, directly the towns freed themselves, the guilds
joined forces with all the lower classes against lay or ecclesiastical
feudalism. They took an honourable part in the insurrection of the
Communes, and took their share also in the spoils of victory. They won
important liberties, and as each guild formed a sort of little city
in which the members discussed, deliberated, and voted, a miniature
republic in which they received their civic education, they quickly
acquired an important place in the struggle of parties and brought
their influence to bear on the government.

But the complexity of the situation demands a double distinction. The
political influence of the guilds varied according to two main factors,
the degree of independence of the towns in which they existed, and the
nature of the crafts of which they were composed.

With regard to freedom, the towns ranged between two extremes. There
were those in which a power external to the burgesses (king, lord,
pope, bishop, abbot) remained full of life, active, and capable of
making itself respected. Such was the case in France, in England, and
for a long time in Rome. There were others, on the contrary, in which
the burgesses almost eliminated every element foreign to their class;
in which they absorbed the wealth and jurisdiction of the bishop;
in which they subdued the nobles and forced them either to give up
interfering or to become plebeians by joining the guilds; in which they
created real republics with their own constitution, budget, army, and
mint, all the dangers and all the prerogatives of practically complete
sovereignty. Such was the case in Florence, Venice, Ghent, Strasburg,
and in the imperial towns, which had nothing to fear from the impotent
or distant phantoms who claimed to be the successors to Caesar and

If they lived under the domination of an energetic and neighbouring
power, the guilds only took a secondary place, and this is perhaps
the reason why it has been possible for the greater number of French
historians to leave them in the background; but they became powers of
the first order if they developed in surroundings where their expansion
was not interfered with.

Let us begin by considering them in those places where they were held
firmly in check. The authority which weighed on them was exerted in
several directions at which we will glance.

In the first place, this authority attempted to regulate the conditions
of labour, to fix its hours and its price. It forbade work on certain
days, though it is true that it consented to many exceptions. At Rome,
where religious festivals were naturally very numerous, the Pope
authorized the wine-sellers and innkeepers to serve travellers, though
not inhabitants of the town, on such days; the farriers to shoe horses
on condition that they did not make new shoes; the barbers to dress
wounds but not to shave; the grocers and fruiterers to open their shops
without displaying their goods; the butchers to hang their meat, so
long as it was covered up; the shopkeepers in general to leave the
doors of their shops half open for the sake of ventilation.[70] In
other words, trade was allowed _sub rosa_. The intervention of the lord
in these matters was so habitual that it caused no surprise. John II.
of France, in his famous ordinance of 1355, proclaimed in 227 articles
a maximum tariff for merchants' goods and the wages of the workmen. The
Statute of Labourers in England in 1349 had similar objects.

The authorities interfered also in judicial matters. When there was a
dispute between two guilds (and this, unfortunately, was of frequent
occurrence) the case came under the jurisdiction of the lordly,
communal, or royal tribunal; in Paris the matter went before the
king's provost, and in case of appeal, to the _Parlement_. But if the
trade was held in fee, _i.e._ if it was under the protection of a
master who held it in fee, it was he who settled the difference.

Thus long wars were waged between barbers and surgeons; at first united
in one body, they wished later on to be separated; but the surgeons
wanted to keep the monopoly of surgical operations, and against this
the barbers protested. Now the head of the trade was the king's barber
and first _valet de chambre_; and in 1372 he inspired an ordinance,
which reserved to the barbers the right to "administer plaisters,
unguents, and other medicines suitable and necessary for curing and
healing all manner of boils, swellings, abscesses, and open wounds."
This, however, did not prevent the quarrel from lasting several
centuries longer.[71]

There were many other causes which led to lawsuits.[72] The guild
might go to law with individuals over the possession of a house or a
field, or have difficulties with the tax-collector. Often, too, the
causes of dispute lay within itself and arose between officers and
masters, who claimed to have been unjustly accused of wrong-doing. In
all these cases it was invariably the rule to apply to the head of the
craft or to the representatives of the competent authority (provost or

In fiscal matters, the guild had obligations from which it could
not escape. In the first place, the right to work, collectively and
individually, had to be paid for. The first article of the statutes of
the napery-weavers of Paris was couched in those terms: "No man may be
napery-weaver at Paris unless he buys the right from the king." By the
application of the same principle the community had to pay a royalty
to get its statutes approved, although this did not always exempt a
member from having to pay down a sum in advance for permission to open
a shop or hang out a sign.[73] Usually the _tonlieu_ and the _hauban_
were paid to the lord, though it must be clearly understood that the
king and town might take his place; the _tonlieu_, which was paid in
money, was a sum levied on the sale of merchandise in proportion to the
amount sold; the _hauban_, which was a payment in kind,[74] exempted
those who paid it from the other charges falling on the craft; it seems
to have been a privilege which could be bought, or at least a sort of
mutual contract or exchange between payer and paid. But the lord, apart
from what he thus put straight into his coffers, levied other indirect
charges on commerce and industry. If he had granted to a guild (the
river merchants, for example) the river tolls, he reserved the right
of free passage for everything destined for his own use. He kept for
himself a certain number of lucrative monopolies.[75] He had, in the
fairs and markets which he alone could authorize, the right of first
choice and purchase. He demanded payment for his stamp on the weights
and measures; he taxed everything which entered or left his territory;
he claimed duties on the weight of goods, and on the inspection of
goods and of inns. Often these rights of lordship were transferred
by him to one of his officers, whose services he remunerated in this
way. One curious example will suffice.[76] The Paris executioner was
a great personage in those days; he walked the streets clothed in red
and yellow, and was exceedingly busy, for he had to keep the gibbet at
Mont Lançon supplied with humanity--and it had room for twenty-four
victims; not to mention the pillories, where the minor offenders
were exhibited, and the scaffolds on which the worst criminals were
executed. To recompense him for his grim services he had been accorded
important privileges, amongst others the right of _havage_; that is to
say, of every load of grain taken to the corn market he claimed as much
as could be held in the hollow of the hand or in a wooden spoon of the
same capacity. Besides this, he collected a toll on the Petit-Pont,
duties on the sale of fish and watercress, on the hire of the fish
stalls surrounding the pillory, and a fine of twopence-halfpenny per
head on pigs found straying in the streets.

These were by no means all the charges imposed on the guilds. They had
further to guarantee certain public services. To the building guilds
was assigned the provision of safeguards against fire; to the doctors'
and barber-surgeons' guilds, the care of the sick poor and of the
hospitals; to all, or nearly all, the assessment of certain taxes, the
policing of the streets, and sometimes the defence of the ramparts.
In Paris, where the nights were as unsafe as they were ill-lit, every
guild in turn furnished, according to its importance, a certain number
of men to patrol the streets and keep guard, from the ringing of curfew
to the break of day, when the sergeant of the Châtelet sounded the
end of the watch. The same custom was to be found in most of the free
towns. A few guilds only were exempt from keeping guard, either on
account of their finances or because it was considered that they had
to render other services. Such, for example, were the goldsmiths,
archers, haberdashers, judges, doctors, professors, etc.

On the other hand, some guilds were under special regulations, _e.g._
the provision guilds. The fear of scarcity, owing to the frequency
of bad harvests or war and also to the permanent difficulty of
communication and transport, was a perpetual menace to the towns.
Their policy in this matter was nearly always that of a besieged
city. The consequent legislation was, above all, communal, and was
inspired by two fundamental principles: first, that on the Commune
devolved the duty of seeing that the inhabitants were healthy and well
fed; secondly, that the Commune, when it was short of money, had a
convenient resource in the taxation of the necessaries of daily life.

Thus the Commune wanted, above all, an abundance of cheap provisions;
it was anxious to avoid food crises which are generally the precursors
of riots and even revolutions; and, without theorizing (nobody troubled
much about theories in those days) they practised what a historian has
called a sort of "municipal socialism."[77] The Commune did not confine
itself to checking the exportation of cattle or of wheat by strict
prohibitions, to encouraging imports by giving bonuses, and forbidding
speculations and monopolies under pain of severe punishments; it
instituted the public control of grain, owned its own mills and ovens,
filled public granaries at harvest time, and emptied them when prices
were high; and it did all this with no idea of gain, but in order that
the poor should not be condemned to die of hunger when times were bad.
Sometimes the Commune owned fisheries and fish-markets (Rome); it often
held the monopoly of salt (Florence); sometimes it forbade a family
to keep more wine in the cellar than was needed, in order that the
possibility of using it should not be confined to the rich. It was with
this object in view that in the town of Pistoria it was decreed that
every owner of sheep should supply at least twenty lambs from every
hundred sheep, and in the district of Florence, that every peasant
should plant so many fruit trees to the acre.

When the Commune did not go so far as to take on itself the supply
of actual necessaries, it achieved the same end through the medium
of the provision trades. This is why the millers were the objects of
endless regulations intended to protect from fraud those who gave
them their grain to grind. This is why the bakers were subjected to
a municipal tariff, were closely watched, and were sometimes obliged
to put up with the competition of outside bakers. This is why the
merchants sold vegetables, fruits, oil, and wine at prices fixed by
special magistrates. Besides this perfectly legitimate endeavour to
guarantee the necessaries of life to every one as far as possible,
there was the very similar and no less justifiable attempt to guarantee
the good quality of provisions exposed for sale. The _talmelier_,
or baker, might not offer for sale bread that was badly baked or
rat-eaten.[78] Provisions for market were submitted to a daily and
rigorous examination. The butchers at Poitiers had to undergo a
physical and moral examination to make sure that they were neither
scrofulous, nor scurfy, nor foul of breath, and that they were not
under excommunication. There was the curious office of the _langueyeurs
de porc_, who had to examine pigs' tongues to see if they showed any
signs of measles or leprosy.

Hygiene, little studied in those days, gave birth to several
precautionary measures. Indeed, it was necessary to study it when
epidemics were abroad, and epidemics were both frequent and deadly.
The private slaughter-houses, and still more those of the Butchers'
Guild, were periodically inspected and moved out of the towns into the
suburbs. The numerous rules and dues which were imposed on this rich
guild, which, with its slaughterers and knackers, formed a formidable
and powerful company, appear to have been balanced by considerable
privileges. At Paris, for instance, the Grande Boucherie, as it was
called, possessed a monopoly extending to the suburbs, by which the
masters, reduced to a small number who succeeded one another from
father to son, had the sole right of selling or buying live animals or
meat, as well as sea and fresh-water fish.

The constant relations between the craft guilds and the authorities
gave them a place of their own; but, besides this, they led to the
creation of guilds of an entirely official character. The guilds
of the measurers (_mesureurs_ and _jaugeurs_), who verified the
capacity of earthenware jars, barrels, bushels, etc., or of the criers
(_crieurs_), who cried in the streets the contents of their jugs--wine
for instance--and offered them to the passers-by to taste,[79] were in
fact combinations of government officials. These trades were peculiar
in this respect, that those who plied them were in receipt of a salary
out of their official takings, and that they might not exceed a certain
number; and also that they held a monopoly, since every one was obliged
to employ them.

Through them we can pass to the second aspect of the communal or
lordly legislation which regulated the provision trades, viz. the
fiscal aspect.

It was no longer in the interests of the consumer that the Commune
kept, for instance, the monopoly of salt, buying as cheaply and selling
as dearly as possible. It was for its own benefit that it instituted
customs, dues, and tolls, levied on food-stuffs, which therefore
fell more heavily on the poor than on the rich; their variation was
simple--when the poorer classes had their way the dues went down, when
the rich were in power they went up. Things are just the same nowadays,
in spite of the fine phrases with which the fluctuations of commercial
policy in great states are disguised. But since, in speaking of guilds,
we have been led to speak of social classes, we must now describe
their classification in those centres where the system was most fully
developed,--that is where guilds, instead of being subjects, were
ruling powers.

It naturally follows that their relations with the authorities
were greatly modified in the towns in which they created, or were
themselves, the authorities. Such was the case at Florence, where, from
the year 1293, twenty-one _Arti_ or unions of craft guilds nominated
the Priors and the other supreme magistrates of the city; at Strasburg,
where, during the fourteenth century, the City Council was formed from
the delegates of twenty-five _Zünfte_, having the same constitution
as the Arti of Florence; at Ghent, where at about the time of James
van Artevelde the three _members_[80] of the State were formed by the
weavers, the fullers, and the "small" crafts; at Boulogne, Siena,
Bruges, Zurich, Liége, Spire, Worms, Ulm, Mayence, Augsburg, Cologne,
etc.; where within sixty years similar revolutions occurred, putting
the power into the hands of the guilds.

In those days the guilds were the units for elections, for the militia,
and for taxation; they judged their dependents without appeal; they
expelled, or reduced to the rank of passive citizens, those who were
not inscribed on their registers; they decided questions of taxation,
peace, and war, and directed the policy of their town, whose internal
and even external history is essentially one with their own.

In these little corporate republics, the principal question became
that of deciding how the different groups of guilds should apportion
the government among themselves. But first, on what principle were the
guilds classified? Was it according to the vital importance of the
needs they existed to supply? This would seem reasonable enough, but
apparently it was nothing of the kind, or else the provision trades
would have been in the first rank. _Primum vivere_, said the old
adage, and to live it is necessary to eat and drink, more necessary
even than to be housed and clothed, and to trade, and certainly more
necessary than to draw up notaries' deeds or go to law. Now the crafts
which provided for the inner man, for Messer Gaster, as Rabelais
calls him (butchers, wine merchants, bakers), were almost everywhere
placed in the second or third rank; the only exceptions were the
grocer-druggists, and it will be seen why this was so.

We must look elsewhere, then, for the reasons which determined the
order of social importance assigned to the guilds by public opinion
in the Middle Ages. It appears that this classification was based on
three different principles which I will call the _aristocratic_, the
_plutocratic_, and the _historical_; that is to say, the status of
a profession seems to have depended on whether it was more or less
_honourable_, _lucrative_, or _ancient_.[81]

The place of honour was reserved for those crafts in which brainwork
took precedence over manual work. They were regarded as more honourable
evidently because, in the dualistic conception which governed Christian
societies, spirit was placed above matter, the intellectual above the
animal part of man. It was for this reason that the professions which
demanded brainwork alone were called from that time onwards "liberal,"
as opposed to manual labour which was called "servile," an expression
which the Catholic Church has piously preserved to our own days.

At Montpellier, Boulogne, Paris, wherever universities existed
(which were themselves in effect "guilds" or corporations, and were
practically federations of advanced schools, as we see from their
jurisdiction, their statutes, their dependents and agents whom they
possessed in the parchment makers and booksellers, and in the title
of rector which their head shared with many other officers elected
by the guilds), the professors of the different Faculties enjoyed
very extensive privileges, and had the proud right of walking, like
the nobles, on the wall side of the pavement. At Florence, where the
division of the guilds into _greater_, _intermediate_, and _lesser_
bore witness to their hierarchy before all the world, as there was no
university, the judges and notaries took precedence; the judges, who
were doctors of law, styled themselves _Messer_, like the knights;
the notaries called themselves simply _ser_, but this served to
distinguish them from the commoners. The proconsul, or head of the
corporation, went out robed in scarlet, and was always escorted by two
gold-laced apparitors. In the first rank, too, were the doctors, but
the barber-surgeons, simply because they performed operations, were
relegated to a lower status; artists, in spite of being often ranked
among craftsmen, gradually obtained social recognition.

Although architects were ranked with carpenters, and image makers and
sculptors were often ranked with stonecutters, in many places the
goldsmiths, who included chasers, moulders, enamellers, and statuaries,
took a high rank. At Paris they were classed among the _Six Guilds_,
which, when the king, the queen, or the papal legate made a solemn
entry into the city, enjoyed the coveted honour of carrying the blue
canopy under which the august personage advanced. At Florence they
belonged--as a sub-order it is true--to the _speziali_ (apothecaries),
which also included the painters and colour-merchants.

While the artists, when they were ranked among the great guilds, only
took a secondary and subsidiary position, the bankers, money-changers,
wholesale traders, the great manufacturers (woollen merchants,
haberdashers, or furriers) lorded it over the others with their
wealth and splendour. This was, moreover, to a certain extent, homage
rendered to brains and education. The exchange and the bank, where it
was necessary to make rapid and complicated calculations, to transact
business at a distance, and to do accounts in differing coinages (and
sometimes, even, without coin), demanded varied knowledge and a certain
mental agility.

Wholesale commerce, which henceforward became international, involved
the power of taking long views, quickness in grasping a situation,
general aptitude, and, in fact, qualities of mind and character which
are not given to all.[82] The apothecaries had an advantage in that
they sold spices which had come from distant lands. The trade in
luxuries (furs and silks) was also concerned with foreign articles
and took for granted a certain _savoir-faire_. "Great" industry, for
its part, demanded of those who carried it on, a talent for setting
in motion, directing, and co-ordinating the complicated machinery of
affairs or of men, and this gift of organization is far from common.

However, it is easy to see that in the priority accorded to the great
industrial and commercial guilds, the second of the principles we have
mentioned was at work, namely, that a craft was considered more or less
honourable according to the wealth it yielded. Did the goldsmiths owe
the respect which was shown them more to their artistic skill than to
the fact that they were in the habit of handling jewels and precious
metals? It would be difficult to say. But it is very certain that the
bankers, money-changers, manufacturers of cloth and silk, the dealers
in furs and in spices, and the haberdashers, who sold everything, would
not have been among the most favoured, if they had not also been among
the most wealthy. Thanks to the crowns, ducats, and florins at their
command, they could indulge in a sumptuous style of living and rival in
luxury the lords of the land.

Like the latter they were in command of troops of men; in their way
they were captains; they united the prestige of power with that of
wealth. It was undoubtedly for this reason that the butchers, who
had numerous assistants working under their orders and who made
considerable profits, sometimes managed in Paris to be included among
the _Six Guilds_, and at Florence headed the list of Intermediate
Guilds. It was for a similar reason that in the same town the
innkeepers and the stone and wood merchants, classed among the Lesser
Guilds, were called _grosse_;[83] while the small tavern-keepers
and those who retailed wood were not considered worthy of such a

The third principle--the historical--was active in its turn. The later
crafts, recently specialized, suffered from the competition of work
done in the home from which they were imperfectly separated. If the
butchers did not succeed in taking their place definitely among the
Six Guilds of Paris, or in becoming affiliated to the Greater Guilds
of Florence, it is probably because, for many years, the people were
their own butchers, and the fatted pig or calf was killed at home;
in other words because their field of action was an integral part of
domestic industry. The same may be said of bakers and bread-makers;
many peasants had their own oven in which they baked their bread,[84]
and they held stubbornly to this right which they sometimes insisted on
having solemnly recognized. There is no need for further explanations
to make us understand why the bakers and bread-makers at Florence came
last on the list of the twenty-one official guilds. It is useless to
attribute their comparative disrepute[85] to the supposed ease with
which they could defraud their clients in the weight and quality of
the bread they sold. Unfortunately, the same suspicions might have
been applied to many others. Can it be forgotten that, at Rome, the
fishmongers were compelled to use scales with holes in them like
skimmers, so that the water could run off and not add weight unfairly!

Thus on account of one or another of these three principles, "small"
crafts and "small" commerce were far from attaining the level to
which the great guilds rose; and in those days the organized world
of labour was divided, sometimes into three groups, as at Florence,
Perpignan,[86] or Ghent, sometimes into two, as at Zurich, and
sometimes into a greater number. It is impossible to go into the
details of the prolonged struggles between these unequal groups, of
their efforts to maintain the balance among themselves, or to rule one
over another, or of the alternate victories and defeats which they
sustained. Nearly two centuries--from the middle of the thirteenth
to the middle of the fifteenth--are filled with the unrest caused by
these quarrels which broke out in two or three hundred towns at once,
and which, in view of the absence of dependable information concerning
them, appear at a distance utterly chaotic. All we can do is to
indicate the development which followed.[87]

Immediately upon the victory of the lower classes over lay and
ecclesiastical feudalism--the first act accomplished by the communal
revolution--the power passed to the rich burgesses. Aristocracy of
money naturally succeeded aristocracy of birth. This plutocracy
was represented by the great merchant guilds, whose rise was soon
followed by that of the great industrial guilds, destined in some
cases to supplant them, but more often to remain their faithful
allies. At Florence, the _Arte di Calimala_ which included bankers
and finishers and sellers of foreign cloth, was at first the most
important of all; it was later dethroned by the _Arte della Lana_,
composed of cloth manufacturers, but both were included in the
federation of the Greater Guilds, which kept in its own hands the
direction of affairs. At Brussels and at Louvain seven families long
furnished the aldermen; at Ghent thirty-nine _nouveaux riches_, and
at Amiens an oligarchy of several families, monopolized the direction
of communal affairs. Everywhere wool-merchants, money-changers, and
goldsmiths became important in proportion to their wealth, not to
their numbers. At Beauvais of thirteen "peers" who constituted the
municipal administration seven were nominated by one guild--that of the
money-changers; the other twenty-one guilds nominated six.

In short, what happened in the free towns was what usually happens in
such a case, namely what happened in France in the nineteenth century.
The victorious bourgeoisie wanted to keep to themselves the spoils
of victory; they attempted to keep the lower classes--their allies
of yesterday--in a precarious and subordinate position, and not only
excluded them from the magistracy, but stamped all politics with a
strongly plutocratic character. They sold to or reserved for themselves
all lucrative posts; they administered the finances according to their
own ideas without giving any account of their actions; they multiplied
wars to kill inconvenient competition, or to open up new outlets for
their commerce. As all this entailed enormous expense they resorted
to loans which brought in high and steady interest, and to taxes on
objects of daily consumption--reactionary taxes which demanded an equal
sum, and therefore an unequal sacrifice, from rich and poor. They
despised and oppressed the small craftsmen and the small retailers;
they tried to limit or to suppress their right to combine or hold
public meetings, and of course they were still harder on all that
labouring population which was not admitted to the guilds, or which
at least was only admitted in a subject capacity. We have already
seen (Chapter II. 7) how they organized the first form of capitalist

The second act of the revolution now began. The town population divided
itself into two separate groups, which soon became two opposing
parties: the rich and the poor; the _fat_ and the _lean_; the great
and the small; the good and the bad, as the chroniclers, who usually
belonged to the leisured class, said with a certain savage naïveté. The
crafts which claimed to be honourable were set in opposition to those
which were considered low and inferior, and were supported and urged on
by the masses, who, without rights or possessions, lived from day to
day by hiring out their labour.

The fight was complicated by the capricious intervention of the nobles
or clergy who, sometimes by a natural affinity, joined the aristocracy
of wealth; sometimes, in the desire to get the better of the great
burgesses who kept them out of the government, allied themselves to the
lower classes and made the balance turn in their favour.

At certain times (this also is a law of history) the lower classes,
in despair at never getting anything out of a selfish and implacable
bourgeoisie, put their confidence in some soldier of fortune, some
ephemeral dictator, some "tyrant" in the Greek sense, who defeated
their enemies and secured them a little well-being and consideration.
On other occasions it was the rich burgesses who, frightened by the
claims of the people, called on some foreign or military power to
reduce the populace to order. Thus, by separate roads, the republics
and towns were travelling towards monarchy.

Before they reached this point, however, the "small" crafts had their
days of supremacy, which were characterized by a peaceful policy,
fiscal reforms, and the effort to make taxation just through the
progressive taxation of incomes. They raised with themselves, out of
the darkness and degradation into which they had fallen, the ragged and
barefooted labourers (carders, porters, _blue-nails_, as the Flemish
labouring classes were called in derision), proletarians, wage-slaves,
who in their turn desired political rights, a legal status in the city,
a rank among the guilds, a share in the direction of the Commune.

In the year 1378 this movement seems to have been at its height.[88]
A wave of revolution passed over Europe at that time, and at Florence
as at Ghent, at Siena as at Rouen, in Paris as in London, for several
years, months, and sometimes weeks, Ciompi, Chaperons blancs,
Maillotins, etc., made the ruling classes tremble for fear of union on
the part of all this riff-raff. As a Flemish chronicler expresses it:
"An extraordinary thing was to be seen in those days; the common people
gained the supremacy."

Their victory was short-lived. All the conservative forces combined
against the intruders. The attempt, not to destroy but to reform and
enlarge guild administration, to make the whole world of labour enter
into it, was shown to be powerless; perhaps because the workmen and men
of the "small" crafts did not clearly perceive what could give them
freedom, or know how to unite into a cohesive body; perhaps, also,
because the idea of hierarchy was still too strongly rooted in society;
finally, perhaps because there was a fundamental contradiction between
the administration of the closed guilds which stood for privilege, and
the ideas of equality which tried to force an entrance into them.

Whatever may have been the cause, from this culmination they descended
again towards their starting-point, the supremacy of money and of
the great commercial and industrial guilds which no longer allowed
their power to be shared by the Lesser Guilds. However, they stopped
half-way. The preponderance was not restored either to the prelates
or to the lords, neither did it remain with the lower classes. It
was too late for the great, too early for the small. It remained and
was consolidated in the hands of two powers, each of which relied
on the other--the middle classes and the monarchy, the latter being
represented in the great states by royalty and elsewhere by princes
who might be _condottieri_ or upstart bankers. Florence went to sleep
under the enervating and corrupt rule of the Medicis. An ever-narrowing
merchant oligarchy governed Genoa, Venice, and the towns of the
Teutonic Hanse. Flanders was quiet under the authority of the Dukes of
Burgundy and of its opulent guilds, to which craftsmen were no longer
admitted. Towards the middle of the fifteenth century the great epoch
of the free towns was over, and the glory of the guilds went with them.

Nevertheless, while their restless and busy life lasted they had their
days of greatness, heroism, and glory. Sometimes, as at Courtrai, they
gained victories over armoured knighthood. They did better. In the
neighbourhood of their cities they built roads, canals, and seaports.
Within the city walls they gave a splendid impetus to architecture.
They built monumental halls like those of Bruges, fountains, hospitals,
and public promenades; they erected churches which were popular
palaces, town halls which were carved like fine lace and flanked by
towers and belfries from which the Tocsin called the citizens to arms
or to the assembly. They had pride and patriotism, and also desired to
honour the profession which was for each of them a state within the
state. They contended for the honour of giving a picture, a statue,
or a tabernacle to the buildings which thus became the incarnation of
the soul of a whole people. The traveller who visits Florence admires
the bas-reliefs half-way up the Campanile attributed to Giotto,
which represent the origin of arts and crafts in the earliest ages
of mankind; it is the stamp and blazonry of the working classes on
their common work. Guilds have passed away, as all human institutions
must pass, imperfect and frail in their very nature; but before their
passing they realized a great part of their high ideal, which, in its
many aspects, I have tried to make plain.



We are now in a position to estimate the merits and defects of the
guilds before they fell into decadence and decrepitude.

It is necessary to consider separately the two types of guilds which we
have described; for although they had characteristics in common, they
present more differences than resemblances. Let us see, then, how each
acted on production and sale, and on producers and sellers.

The guild system in the "small" crafts was at once a guarantee of, and
a check on, production and sale. It endeavoured to insure and guard the
consumer against adulteration, falsification, and dishonesty; to stamp
goods with the character of finish, solidity, and relative perfection,
thus giving to them something personal and therefore artistic; to
keep within reasonable limits the profits of the manufacturer, who
was also the merchant. On the other hand, the manufacturer only dealt
with small quantities, was content with a very restricted clientèle,
and aimed at nothing beyond the local market without much chance of
either making a fortune or being ruined. Production thus had but little
vigour, and what was more serious still, its plasticity was interfered
with. The statutes which regulated it resembled feudal castles, which
protected but imprisoned those whom they sheltered. The manufacturer,
hampered by the restrictions which surrounded him, could make no
progress. Industry, bound down by directions which were too precise,
too detailed, too authoritative, could not adapt itself to the many
caprices of fashion or to the changes of taste which are the very life
of human civilizations; its forms were set, its methods petrified.
Invention could not have free play; it was accused of outraging healthy
tradition; it was considered dangerous to set out to create anything
new. In Florence in 1286[89] a cooper complained of being boycotted by
his guild because in making his barrels he bent his staves by means
of water, which was, he said, an advantage to all who bought them. At
Paris[90] it was forbidden to mould seals with letters engraved on
them; apparently the counterfeiting of seals and coins was feared. Who
knows, however, whether this prohibition did not retard by a hundred
years the invention of printing, to which--when a method of making them
movable had been discovered--these engraved letters gave birth?

With regard to producers and sellers, we may go back to the simile of
the strong castle. An instrument of defence for those who were within
the guild easily degenerated into one of tyranny for those who were
without. It was the centre of an ardent and exclusive corporate spirit.
It resolved all the individual egoisms of its members into a great
collective egoism. It is only necessary to recall the quarrels with
neighbouring guilds, and the hostility shown towards workers who were
not enrolled. To the masters of which it was composed it ensured at
least a modest and honest livelihood, the just remuneration of labour,
or, one might almost say, to use a modern formula, the whole product
of labour. It even assured a refuge against misery and distress, the
certainty of assistance in times of trouble, illness, old age, or
misfortune. The fishermen of Arles were bound to give one another
mutual assistance in stormy weather;[91] in Paris among the goldsmiths
one shop remained open every Sunday,[92] and the money from the sales
was divided among the needy of the town and the widows and sick of the
guild. Fines were often used in this way. The guild sometimes even gave
to the travelling workman who found himself at the end of his resources
the means of going in search of work elsewhere. The guild secured to
its members other advantages no less coveted: a good position in public
processions and ceremonies when state dress was worn, or even at the
melancholy solemnities of the public executions;[93] at Lyons, at
the time of the feast of St. John, two furriers with lighted torches
paraded to the church door, mounted on two white mules, and at the
entrance were received by the cross and the canons.[94] But more than
all this, the guild was not only a great family for those who belonged
to it, it was a little self-contained city, a diminutive commune which
the members administered at will, and thereby prepared themselves for
civic life and its duties; it was a training-ground for independent,
well-informed, active citizens, who, with their parliamentary
traditions, republican sentiments, and democratic hopes, formed,
with their fellow-craftsmen of other crafts, a proud, practical, and
courageous middle-class, as anxious to defend their town from outsiders
as to beautify and adorn it.

Journeymen and apprentices shared in these honourable privileges, and
did not suffer unduly from the inequality imposed on them, tempered as
it was by simplicity of manners and by the thought that it was only

The guilds of "great" commerce and of "great" industry also had their
fine sense of honour, their complicated regulations, their exclusive
spirit. But what distinguished them was the fact that their capital
was large and that they dealt with a vast market; consequently, while
the former were busy with exchange and transport, traversed land
and sea with their convoys, and constituted themselves the carriers
and brokers of the world, the latter intensified production; they
possessed workshops which for those days were very large, and, in order
to lower their general expenses, were interested in new inventions,
and willingly adopted mechanical methods; at Florence, for example,
metallic carders, which were still prohibited in Great Britain in 1765,
were already in use under the guild system. Banking, commercial and
maritime law, the science of finance, the art of production on a large
scale and of securing international relations certainly owe a great
deal to these merchants and manufacturers, who were the precursors of
modern capitalists.

The members of these powerful guilds amassed enormous fortunes, built
themselves superb palaces, became counsellors and money-lenders to
kings, towns, or popes. Sometimes they were too adventurous in their
speculations and their bankruptcies made a wide stir. Accustomed
to affairs of the highest importance and to court intrigues, they
became diplomats, clever politicians, who willingly took their share
in government; nor was it by chance that the first man in France who
tried to reform the kingdom according to the views of the Third Estate
was Étienne Marcel, provost of the richest Parisian guild. Often,
however, these great burgesses were of an aristocratic spirit. In
the city they opposed the rise of the lower classes, and, in their
magnificent palaces, princes in fact before they were princes in
name, as the Medicis became, they gradually extinguished around them
the love of liberty and of republican virtues. At the same time they
broke up that solidarity which was the very soul of the primitive
guilds; they created a social system which perpetuated riches above
and poverty below; they enslaved and cruelly exploited the clerks
and workers they employed, their attitude towards whom was no longer
that of masters towards journeymen or _compagnons_, but that of lords
towards dependents. In a word, they broke from the conditions which
no longer sufficed for the realization of their ambitions, and they
were preparing, indeed they were already developing, an organization
of labour which anticipated the future. They were the agents of that
profound change which slowly brought about the death of the guilds.



A body of institutions, like a living body, begins by passing through
a period of formation, growth, and consolidation, after which decay
inevitably follows; it becomes feeble, disintegrates, decomposes,
and finally dissolves. Death is thus presented as the natural term
of life with its constant wear and tear, as the necessary end of
the spontaneous development peculiar to living beings. But it is
also determined by the pressure of outside forces, by the action of
environment. Thus the guild system held within itself elements of
dissolution, and at the same time met with destructive forces from
without; it declined and decayed under the combined influences of
internal and external causes.

It seems fitting to begin with the external causes, since these were
the most important. In an unchanging environment living beings could
exist for long unchanged, but the changes ever at work without hasten
changes within, from the very fact that the organism is itself at work.
Thus it was that the guilds were first of all affected by the profound
changes going on around them. The sphere in which they had to work was
both extended and modified. We must follow out the consequences of both
these changes.

1. _The Extension of the Market and its Results._--The fifteenth
century saw the formation of the great States in Europe. France, which
felt herself to be a nation when she was trampled under foot by the
English, was the first to become a unity, and for several centuries
drew her power and her greatness from the start which she thus gained.
Spain was concentrated under the authority of Ferdinand and Isabella.
England, worn out after a terrible civil war, found rest under the
Tudor dynasty. In Germany, which was still very divided, the Hanseatic
League included twenty-four cities. Even in Italy the restless
republics, ever jealous of their independence, were absorbed into
larger territories and placed under a common supremacy. Everywhere the
endless subdivision of the Middle Ages gave place to larger groupings,
possessing fuller life and wider interests. Hence a new situation
arose for the cities; among those which in every state had up till
now been on an equal footing one rose to be the capital, the others,
with diminished prestige and importance, were only secondary centres.
They also ceased to be islets where the people lived lives apart; from
henceforward they formed an integral part of a whole which surrounded
them and no longer allowed of a proud isolation; they could no longer
treat their neighbours as foreigners or enemies; they found themselves
bound together by the necessity of obeying the same laws and the same

It followed that _city economy_, becoming narrow and exclusive, grew
difficult and by degrees impossible.[95] It was replaced by _national
economy_. This meant that the commercial market, instead of being
confined to the inhabitants of a town and its suburbs, included
henceforth the province, the duchy, and by degrees the whole kingdom.
Above all, it meant that the central power no longer legislated
for people enclosed within a small area, but that it attempted to
unify over the whole surface of a considerably enlarged territory
the official language, moneys, weights and measures, as well as the
regulations of industry and the judicial forms; that it suppressed as
far as possible the tolls which obstructed the roads and rivers; that
it carried back to the frontier the barriers which had been set up on
the boundaries of every little domain; that for a localizing spirit
it substituted the desire to reconcile the interests of the different
regions between which it played the part of arbitrator and peacemaker.

Doubtless the economic policy adopted by the great States did not
sensibly differ from that practised in the towns. A system does not
disappear without bequeathing traditions and customs to its successor.
National economy copied the methods of city economy. When Colbert, for
instance, tried to realize for France the ideal of self-sufficiency,
when for this reason he wanted to sell as much as possible and buy as
little as possible abroad, to create industries which were lacking,
to prevent those which existed from leaving the country, to encourage
the export of manufactured goods while watching over their proper
manufacture, and to hinder the import of similar goods by barricading
the country with customs tariffs, he was only taking up once more and
making general an old system formerly tried by Florence or Venice
and adopted later by kings and ministers in France and England, by
Henry IV. and notably by Richelieu. This mercantile system has been
christened Colbertism, and the name will serve provided that it is
known that Colbert was not its father but its godfather.

Nevertheless, in spite of the continuity of the principles which
guide great governors, the mere fact that the enlarged area in which
the guilds operated contained several towns whose jealousy might be
measured by their rights, was a terrible blow for the guilds; each town
with its narrow boundaries, finding itself completely out of harmony
with the world in which it was condemned to live, had to adapt itself
to the new conditions or die.

Not only, however, had the internal markets grown larger, the external
market had also extended enormously, and it was no longer for the
spices and gems of the Levant alone that ships and caravans set out.
In the South, Vasco da Gama had discovered the route to the Indies; in
the West, Christopher Columbus, while seeking those same Indies, had
come upon America; in the North, Russia and Scandinavia had proved to
be magnificent fields for traders to exploit. Africa, which as yet no
one had dared to penetrate, was approached and the existence of Oceania
suspected. Europe, in revenge for old invasions, overflowed in her turn
into other continents; she expanded into distant colonies; the sun no
longer set on her possessions.

The first result was a rearrangement of commercial routes, a formidable
rush to the West. The Mediterranean basin, cut off from the East by
the Turks, ceased to be the meeting-place of nations and the universal
centre of commerce. Genoa and Florence, the mothers and glorious
victims of Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci, began to decay, and the
very source of their wealth was assailed by the discoveries of their
children. Beneath the trappings of gold and silk that yet covered them
there was left only the melancholy glory of their dying prosperity.
Venice the rich, Venice the beautiful, slumbering in the fever-laden
air of her canals from which the life was ebbing, slowly died in her
gorgeous setting of palaces and churches and degenerated into a city of
dreams, luxury, and pleasure, where the leisured and the gay came to
seek the shadow of a great past and the splendours of a half-oriental
civilization. Many cities, like Pisa or Siena, deserved with Bruges to
be called "the dead," cut off from the ocean by the encroaching sands
and from liberty by the Spanish lords of Flanders.

How could the guilds hope to escape from the consequences of
misfortunes which struck at their very roots? An even graver menace
threatened them. To take advantage of the new outlets, to satisfy a
clientèle henceforth scattered over the most diverse countries, it
was necessary to produce more, and to produce more it was necessary
to produce in a different way. Production was transformed to meet the
needs of trade. Capitalism, which had hitherto been confined to a few
towns, received an impetus and developed with unexpected vigour.

"Great" commerce, which spread over an immense area, created exchanges
and banks, and great financial institutions for the circulation of
capital; it formed great companies which undertook to exploit the
resources of new countries; it accelerated transport and built up in
the press a valuable instrument for the spread of information and
for advertisement. In its use of credit it no longer encountered the
displeasure of the Church, which, together with civil law, became
reconciled to loans on interest and recognized the practice as long as
the rate was moderate. Its coffers, filled with the gold and silver
of the galleons which came from Mexico and Peru, gave Europe a hint
of a hitherto unsuspected danger--the glut of money. Capital, too,
which had accumulated in the landlords' and merchants' chests, took a
leading part in business activities by reason of its power to command;
it became a moving force.

Henceforward, as we have already seen in the case of the woollen
merchants, three functions, hitherto united in the person of the small
craftsman of the towns, became separated: those of the _merchant_, who
bought raw material and sold finished goods; of the _manufacturer_, who
possessed the appliances of labour; and of the _workman_, who wrought
with his own hands. Three classes of men answer to this specialization
at the present day: the _traders_, who are not producers, but act
as middlemen between producer and consumer, deciding what shall be
produced and concerning themselves solely with buying and selling; the
_industrial capitalists_, who, at the tradesmen's orders, direct the
transformation of the raw materials entrusted to them, in workshops and
with machinery which are their property; finally the _workmen_, who,
mere wage-earners, carry out manual or mechanical work as they are told.

These three classes of men have different interests. The big merchants,
with their bold speculations, are impatient of anything which hinders
circulation: town dues, customs, tolls, differences of coinage, weights
and measures, all regulations, everything, in fact, which tends to
isolate towns and countries. When Louis XI. convoked the States
General in 1484, the town deputies expressed themselves in favour of
the freedom of trade, which now felt strong enough to stand alone.
When Henry IV., on the advice of Montchrestian and Laffemas, wanted
to secure French markets to the French by increasing customs tariffs,
all the guilds consulted declared themselves in favour of the project,
with the exception of the mercers--"sellers of everything, makers of
nothing," as they were called--thus plainly expressing the hostility
of wholesale trade to the exclusive policy which had been pursued by
the towns. The great traders represented a revolutionary tendency with
regard to the guild system; they were its constant enemies; they ended
by being its destroyers.

The manufacturers, for their part, were not averse to being protected
against foreign competition; they were indeed inclined to ask for this
protection. Like the guilds, they had a predilection for privilege
and monopoly, but were not in agreement with them on some essential
points. In order to produce much and profitably they were in need of
cheap and abundant labour. Ignoring the rules of apprenticeship, they
hired foreigners, peasants, women, and children; in the sixteenth
century, in the town of Norwich, which from being agricultural had
become industrial, children of six were employed in the factories.[96]
When they did not crowd the workers together in enormous workshops,
they resorted to what sometimes goes by the equivocal name of "the
domestic system," which I prefer to call "scattered manufacture."
In the towns they employed men and women, who, working in their own
homes, were sheltered from inquisitive eyes. Such workers were found
in the suburban and country districts, in any places which were beyond
the ordinary jurisdiction of wardenship and mastership. Or again,
they employed labour in the hospitals, orphanages, or work-rooms of
religious orders, which had escaped from the jealous supervision of
the guilds. In Picardy, at certain periods, the weaver workmen thus
scattered among the villages numbered 10,000.[97] The same thing was
to be found in Brittany,[98] Normandy, and Dauphiny, in the manufacture
of linen and hemp; in Velay in that of lace; in Auvergne in that
of trimmings; in the Rhone valley in that of silk. In England the
peasants, driven from home, impoverished, eaten out by sheep, deprived
of their means of livelihood by the enclosure of huge pasture lands
to which they might no longer take their cattle, provided a wonderful
reserve army for industrial magnates in search of labour.[99] The
town artisans fought with desperation against the blows struck at
town monopolies by these new departures.[100] Opposition--significant
but utterly useless--was offered on every hand to the new demands of
large-scale production. Risings against foreign workers, like those
at Norwich; the many attempts to limit the number of apprentices;
the English law of 1555 known as the Weavers' Act, which forbade a
master to own or hire out more than a certain number of looms; and
the innumerable lawsuits in France brought by guilds to check the
disastrous competition of peasant labour were all illustrations of this

Another necessity of large-scale production, involving still greater
consequences, was mechanical labour.

"Great" industry demanded the division--even the disintegration--of
labour. The product, before it is finished, passes through the hands of
various craft groups. It undergoes a series of processes which follow
one another and are interdependent, and of which each is carried out
by specially trained workers. This was the case in the manufacture of
wool from the thirteenth century. The wool had to be washed, beaten,
carded, combed, oiled, spun, woven, fulled; then the cloth had to be
stretched, dyed, dressed, and folded. It is a well-known fact that
if each class of work is entrusted to a special class of workers,
manufacture costs less both in money and in time. But it must be added
that this disintegration of the whole process into a succession of
operations leads straight to the mechanical system.[101] The simple
and monotonous tasks performed under this system of subdivision by the
different classes of workers owe their automatic and half-mechanical
character to the uniformity of the movements they demand. It needed
very little to complete the technical revolution already begun and to
make hands of wood or metal accomplish what had been done by human

A machine may be described as a more or less complicate engine, which,
by means of an animate or inanimate motive force, executes movements
which hitherto have been performed by the human hand. The weaving loom
and the spinning wheel were already rudimentary machines. The Middle
Ages knew, under the name of "mills," more complicate appliances, of
which many date from the Alexandrine period, which was to Graeco-Roman
antiquity what the nineteenth century is to modern times--the era of
science and machinery.

Water- or wind-mills, mills for grinding flour, for crushing nuts
or olives, for raising water; iron mills; mills for fulling cloth,
for making paper, sugar, silk stuffs--all these expensive appliances
were in use, and gradually spread over Europe during the period which
brought to a close and immediately followed the Middle Ages. Thus old
industries changed their method, and new industries were from the start
modelled on the new system.

Printing may be quoted as an example; the printing press, with its
movable letters, took the place of writing--the work of human fingers.
It may be said of it that it was born mechanical, and if we ask why it
killed the slow industry of the old copyists who protested in vain, we
need only look at the unexpected results it achieved. The identity of
the copies produced; the speed, which allowed demands hitherto forced
to wait months and years to be met in a few days, and which gave, so to
speak, wings to thought; and the unheard-of cheapness, which reduced
the price of a Bible from 600 to 60 crowns and even less (things
which evidently could not be obtained without the co-operation of the
Prince of Darkness, as was proved by the red characters which flamed
at the head of the chapters), such were the diabolical but invaluable
advantages which in less than half a century assured the triumph and
the rapid spread of the new invention.

If we remember the thousand-and-one prohibitions with which the guild
statutes bristled--the prohibition to mould seals with engraved
letters, the regulations which in every craft prevented all change and
consequently all improvement in manufacture, it is easy to understand
how "great" industry, without deliberate effort, but by its very
development, overthrew the economic order which had reigned in the
Middle Ages. The guilds, moreover, with the best intentions in the
world, fought against innovations which seemed to them abominations.
In England in the year 1555 the _gig-mill_, a mechanical appliance,
was forbidden by law.[102] The first English coaches, called "flying
coaches," were attacked and censured[103] because they threatened to
injure the art of riding and the manufacture of saddles and spurs, and
because, being too cold in winter and too hot in summer, they were bad
for the health of travellers; but, above all, because, on account of
their extreme speed, they would be dangerous. The public authorities
were begged to limit them to thirty miles a day (rather less than the
distance a fast train covers to-day in an hour); and later, in France,
when the _turgotines_ were instituted, which shortened by half the
length of a journey, an abbot added the strange complaint that, by
going so fast, they deprived the passenger of the means of hearing

"Great" commerce and "great" industry, however, continued to develop
in the direction they had originally taken, and finally overcame the
old-fashioned timidity of the guilds, which were gradually reduced
to defending the interests of the small crafts. The great merchant
guilds were predominant at first; the Lord Mayor of London was chosen
from the city guilds, and the guild of the river merchants gave to
Paris its coat-of-arms and motto and was an embryonic form of the
municipal councils which followed later. As time went on, however,
they disappeared or separated themselves from the organized crafts.
At Paris, the Hanse of the river merchants does not figure among the
_six guilds_ which head the list, although they did not actually lose
their privileges till the year 1672. In London,[105] the city guilds
slowly ceased to have any connection with the crafts whose names they
bore. The great capitalists, whether bankers, merchants, or great
manufacturers, voluntarily formed themselves into a separate group and,
as far as possible, cut themselves clear of the trammels of the guild

Meantime, under the system of large-scale production, the workers
were either subjected to the guilds as we have seen them at Florence
in the _Arte della Lana_,[106] or else, if they were not enrolled,
were treated by their individual masters in such a way as to keep them
permanently in a precarious and subordinate position. Whether they
worked crowded together in great workshops--where, owing to their
numbers, they were under severe discipline--or at home, in which case
their isolation only brought them, under the appearance of liberty,
harder conditions, they soon saw that, with the rarest possible
exceptions, they were destined to be wage-earners for life. They no
longer had the hope, the ambition, even the idea of one day owning the
factory in which they laboured, or the business which every week paid
its thousands of workers. The divorce was complete between the manual
worker and the instruments of production, and, in consequence, between
the men who were the servants of these expensive appliances and the
master-manufacturers who owned them. Masters and workmen, henceforth
separated by their present and their future, by their education, their
manner of life, and their aspirations, formed two classes, united
as yet, in that both were interested in the intensity of industrial
activity, but opposed, in that the one wished to keep the other in
subjection and to sweat out of him as much work as possible, as cheaply
as possible.

It is from this time, and still only in "great" industry, that a
working class can be spoken of. For a long time it was fairly small;
but the self-consciousness it was acquiring was shown by the strikes,
the combinations, and the attempts at union which were common in
England from the sixteenth century; by combinations which were already
national, like that of the papermakers in France at the end of the
seventeenth century; by the popular songs in which the discontent of
the workmen was expressed in bitter complaints or biting irony.[107]
The energy and diplomacy displayed in the sixteenth century by the
master printers of Lyons and Paris in preventing their workmen from
striking (_fair le tric_, which was the name given in those days to
concerted abstention from work[108]) is well known; so is the song sung
in England by the wool workers[109] towards the end of the seventeenth
century, the title of which is curious. The master is supposed to speak.



    Wherein is expressed the craftiness and subtility of Many Clothiers
    in England, by beating down their Workmen's Wages.

        Combers, weavers, and spinners, for little gains,
        Doth earn their money, by taking of hard pains.

    _To the tune of_ "Jenny, come tae me," etc., "Paddington's Pound,"
    or "Monk hath confounded," etc.

        Of all sorts of callings that in England be,
        There is none that liveth so gallant as we;
        Our trading maintains us as brave as a knight,
        We live at our pleasure, and take our delight;
        We heapeth up riches and treasure great store,
        Which we get by griping and grinding the poor.
            And this is a way for to fill up our purse,
            Although we do get it with many a curse.

        Throughout the whole kingdom, in country and town,
        There is no danger of our trade going down,
        So long as the Comber can work with his comb,
        And also the Weaver weave with his lomb;
        The Tucker and Spinner that spins all the year,
        We will make them to earn their wages full dear.
            And this is the way, etc.

        In former ages we us'd to give,
        So that our work-folks like farmers did live;
        But the times are altered, we will make them know
        All we can for to bring them under our bow;
        We will make to work hard for sixpence a day,
        Though a shilling they deserve if they had their just pay.
            And this is the way, etc.

and so on, for twelve stanzas.

From now onwards can be found all those motives for disagreement with
which the "social question," as it has developed and grown more bitter,
has made us familiar;--increase of hours of work, lowering of wages
by the employment of apprentices, women, and children; reductions of
the sums agreed upon by means of fines, payment in kind,[110] and
other tricks; draconian regulations; harsh foremen; the binding of
the workers to the workshop, as the serfs were to the soil, by money
advances which they could never repay. Events follow their usual
course: the story is one of struggles, prosecutions, appeals to the
law, and finally, when no more can be said, battles with folded arms
and closed factories--strikes by workmen or employers. There follow
riots in which machinery is wrecked and attacks are sometimes made upon
the masters themselves. Repression ensues; the carrying of arms is
forbidden, the rights of combination and public meeting denied at pain
of death. And, in reply to these measures, the workers retaliate by
emigration, by secret societies, by recourse to force which may damp
down the fire but cannot prevent it from smouldering till in time it
bursts out afresh.

The guilds and their statutes were of but feeble assistance in
calming these conflicts. The greater part of the workers in the great
industries did not belong to them. Worse still, the guild system
itself suffered from the startling inequality which separated its
great manufacturers from their employees. Between rich masters and
small masters, between the sons of masters and the poor journeymen,
the gulf ever widened, and an institution was soon to reveal the
growing friction. I have already spoken of the separate societies,
now of long standing, governed by journeymen (_compagnons_); but
_compagnonnage_, united to these ancient associations by more than one
tie, had a more extensive influence. Its origins are obscure.[111] It
is hardly found before the beginning of the fifteenth century, and
developed particularly in Central Europe, France, the Low Countries,
and in Germany. It seems to be allied to freemasonry in its origins,
but was distinguished by an activity peculiar to itself. Freemasonry,
as far as it is possible to pierce the mists which envelop its early
history, was essentially a federation of building trades. It took its
birth from the bands of workmen who had their _raison d'être_ in the
construction of those vast cathedrals whose harmonious proportions are
certainly the most perfect legacy left to us by the Middle Ages. The
aim of the association was to keep in order the crowds of half-nomadic
labourers, who for half a century or more would establish themselves
in a town; to transmit from one generation to the next the secrets of
the craft; to act as arbitrator in the quarrels which might arise among
this restless population. Born in the shadow of the sanctuary, it was
naturally mystic and religious in character; it claimed to go back to
the Templars, or even to the builders of Solomon's Temple; it was the
child of an age which delighted in mystery and occult knowledge, and
it imposed on its members a complicated initiation, formidable tests,
signs of recognition, and pass-words. Created for men who sometimes
transferred their labour and their plans from one end of Europe to
the other, it scattered its lodges over different lands; it was
international, and in this differed profoundly from the guilds. But
with this exception, it took its place within the existing order of
things, accepted the hierarchy of the guild system, and had its three
degrees--_i.e._ included apprentices, journeymen, and masters. It was a
mixed institution as much and even more bourgeois than working-class.

_Compagnonnage_, too, covered many craft-guilds, of which the
most important were closely connected with building (carpenters,
stone-cutters, joiners) or with the clothing trades. It had its mystic
legends, its symbolic rites in which baptism and communion figured,
its claims to a long genealogy, its tests, pass-words, and strange
ceremonies, in fact the whole armoury of a society which believes
secrecy to be of vital importance. It was a league for mutual and
fraternal assistance, which spread over many countries and undertook
to procure for its travelling members moral support, lodging,
travel-money, and, above all, work. But it differed from the guilds and
from freemasonry in that no masters were admitted. It concerned itself
exclusively with obtaining work for _compagnons_, and with looking
after their professional interests. It thus emphasized the separation
which had taken place between masters and workers. It was feared as
an instrument of war, suspected on account of its secret methods by
the public authorities which persecuted it, and by the Church which
accused it of disseminating heretical ideas and condemned it in 1655
by the voice of the Faculty of Theology at Paris; it was also exposed
to the attacks of the guilds. Nevertheless it survived all this, and
was strong enough to organize strikes, and to black-list the firms
which did not accept its conditions, and even the towns in which it was

Of course its strength and power of emancipation must not be
exaggerated. _Compagnonnage_ remained bound by the customs and liable
to the vices of the guild system. If it escaped from the restraining
spirit it did not escape from the corporate spirit; it jealously
closed its ranks, and would only admit certain crafts; it was divided
into hostile rites or _devoirs_ which took for patrons Solomon,
Maître Jacques, or Père Soubise. Violence was frequent (_topage_ for
instance), and bloody battles for the monopoly of work in a particular
town often took place. Besides, it only included a privileged minority
who ill-treated and despised not only those who were outside their
ranks but even those who aspired to enter them. It was on the whole
a fighting league, and imposed conditions on certain masters; but it
was far from being a combination of the whole of the working classes
against the masters.

Centuries were yet to pass before the development of "great" industry,
by constantly increasing the number employed, by turning the suburbs
of great cities and the black country into seething human anthills,
forced all these multitudes of workers, in spite of wide differences
of occupation, to unite into a great army.

As has been said, the division of society into guilds is vertical; it
only becomes horizontal when the conditions common to the great army of
wage-earners blot out all differences of craft and origin.

2. _The change in intellectual conditions. The Renaissance and the
Reformation._--We have summed up the effects produced on the guilds
by the enlargement of the environment in which they developed. This
environment, however, changed not only in extent but also in character.
Without going into the details of the changes they passed through, we
can see that three great events stand out in the history of Europe
from the fifteenth to the end of the seventeenth century, and it is
impossible that they should have failed to react on the system we are
studying; these are the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the increase
in the powers of the State.

The great intellectual revolution which has been named the Renaissance
was at first a return to Greek and Roman antiquity. Literary men and
scholars, filled with adoration for a glorious past, abandoned their
mother tongue for that of the great dead, imitated Virgil, Cicero,
Demosthenes, swore by Jupiter and Mercury, insisted, like Montaigne,
on being given the title of Roman citizens, or like Erasmus, Ramus, or
Melanchthon, took neo-classical names. They restored ancient methods
of thought and action; they wove conspiracies in imitation of Brutus;
they dated their letters by the Calends and the Ides; they became
pagans once more in appearance and sometimes in reality; in opposition
to Christianity--the religion of sadness, resignation, poverty, and of
the struggle against the flesh and passion--they re-established love,
pleasure, beauty, and the joy of life. They wakened from their long
slumber the old systems of philosophy, and as disciples not only of
Aristotle, but of Plato, Epicurus, and Diogenes, they became accustomed
to coquetting with every kind of doctrine and often acquired an elegant

These new conceptions, which demanded a knowledge of languages
requiring long study at college, could only be held by an _élite_. To
have the right of initiation into the ancient authors it was necessary
to belong to the leisured classes; it took time to read and re-read
them in order to extract the "marrow within."

In a word, the Renaissance was fundamentally aristocratic. Most of its
classical scholars and poets profess disdain and hatred of the ignorant

    Rien ne me plaist que ce qui peut desplaire
    Au jugement du rude populaire

cries one of the brilliant satellites of our Pléiade.[113]

It follows logically that the education it instituted and which
was founded on the study of Greek and Latin drew a clear line of
demarcation between the children thus brought up, who were destined to
hold the highest social positions, and the others doomed to inferior
tasks and studies. It will therefore be understood that the Renaissance
influenced the condition of the workers. It swelled the tide which was
carrying society towards class division; it helped to separate still
further the tradesman and the manual worker; and above all it separated
the artist and the craftsman, those twin brothers, who till then had
shared the same life and the same ideals. The artist was no longer the
interpreter of the thought of a whole people, but, working for the
rich and powerful bankers or princes, who required him to reproduce
archaic forms and consequently demanded of him a certain amount of
education, he left the ranks of the people, rose to wealth, to the
ranks of the upper middle classes, and figured at court; he and his
fellows grouped themselves into special brotherhoods such as that of
St. Luke at Rome, and before long formed academies inaccessible to the
vulgar. Compare the life of Raphael with that of Giotto. In these days,
the craftsman remained a working man, lost in the crowd, watching from
afar and from his lowly station his successful comrade, who no longer
recognized the poor relation he had left behind.

Separations of this kind abound in almost every direction. In the
Middle Ages grocers and apothecaries, barbers and surgeons, were
classed together. But in the sixteenth century the apothecary, on his
admission to mastership, had to reply in Latin, and henceforth he no
longer considered the spice merchant his equal. So in France, from the
year 1514, the bond between the two professions was broken.

The historian can easily prove that this separation of art and craft
was often harmful to both; that art, isolated from the warm heart of
the people, became conventional, cold, stiff, and artificial; that
craft, relegated to a lower position, no longer sought for beauty, and
was condemned to express itself in inferior, routine work; but, taking
the guilds alone, this separation certainly weakened the mediaeval
system. Deprived of members whose gifts were their glory, they lost in
power as in prestige.

In spite of all this, and although the Renaissance is from some points
of view a retrogression towards social conditions which had long
disappeared, it was more than this; it was the awakening of the spirit
of initiative; it was a forward impulse, a bold step in advance. It was
not limited to a mere renewal of relations with classical antiquity;
it stimulated inventive effort, and taught men to think for themselves
once more, to open their eyes and to observe. It thus gave a strong
impetus to science. The age is rich in many-sided geniuses and seekers
after truth, who widened the field of human knowledge and power in
every direction. It saw the birth of those universalists, Leonardo
da Vinci and Michael Angelo, who may be likened to trees, which, by
the mysterious process of grafting, bear twenty different kinds of
fruit. In short, the Renaissance was a setting free of intelligence, a
breaking forth of truths, which, thanks to printing, spread all over
the world and became a lasting possession.

It is true, indeed, that mankind, like the Wandering Jew, is always
moving forward, and never comes completely to a standstill. Man
moves ceaselessly because he is alive. But after the great creative
movement which is the glory of modern times, his progress is more
apparent, surer, and more rapid. From this time must be dated a
permanent alliance between science and industry, exemplified in that
heroic potter, Bernard Palissy, who spent his life and fortune in
rediscovering the secret of certain enamelled pottery. The pity is that
this alliance, so fruitful in new methods, in the exploitation of new
materials and new products, was formed at the expense of the guilds;
for the innovations which it rendered necessary were the death of their
rules governing manufacture. Everything contributed, as we can see, to
the break-up of the organization of labour which they embodied.

The same may be said of the Reformation, the religious renaissance,
which was both a development of and a reaction from its fellow.
It could hardly be expected that a revolution which rent Western
Christianity asunder should spare the unity of the craft guilds. True,
it did not act in the same way: by making the reading of the Bible
obligatory it encouraged the education of the people, and in this
way it raised the craftsman. It found, and not without reason, its
first adherents among workmen,--Saxon miners, carders from the town
of Meaux; it turned towards democracy, towards theories of equality.
Those who carried it to extremes, like the Anabaptists of Münster,
pictured a government in which all the guilds, great and small, should
be made equal; their ideal was to turn all organized crafts, superior
and inferior, into a sort of public service; to establish a kind of
Biblical communism. Their leader and prophet was John of Leyden, an
aged working tailor.[114] If this was only a passing birth-throe of
Protestantism at least the guilds took a large share in the great
movements which shook Holland and England. It really seems that the
Reformation brought a renewal of vigour and activity to those states
in which it triumphed. But in many countries the fight between the
two faiths was so fierce that many cities were devastated and ruined
by it. In Germany, after the Thirty Years' War, Magdeburg, Wurtzburg,
Heidelberg, Spire, and Mannheim were simply heaps of ruins, almost
deserted. The Teutonic Hanse which had been so powerful was a wreck;
the Protestant and Catholic towns had broken the union in which their
strength lay. In a hundred places, since it was admitted that the
religion of the prince was law for his subjects (_cujus regio, hujus
religio_) whole bodies of people and industries moved away; workmen
and masters went in search of refuge among their co-religionists. The
guild system was profoundly disturbed by this; the new-comers, when
they were too numerous, were not always very warmly welcomed by their
brothers in God, and even when they were received, they practically
forced their way into a closed system which they strained to breaking.

In places where the population remained divided between the two creeds,
or where, more from indifference to, than respect for, the beliefs
of others, they made a lame attempt at tolerance, it was extremely
difficult to get men of the two sects to live together in the same
body. Just as the Jews had been excluded from the guilds in the Middle
Ages, so now the Protestants were kept out. In France, from the time
of Richelieu, fifty years before the repeal of the Edict of Nantes,
the professions of a doctor, apothecary, grocer, and many others were
forbidden to them.[115] Then came the great exodus of 1685, which
scattered the French Huguenots over every place in Europe where they
had friends, and planted colonies of refugees in Switzerland, England,
Holland, Prussia, Denmark, and Sweden. "They carried commerce away
with them," says Jurieu, one of their pastors; and _commerce_ in the
language of those days included what we call industry. The fact is
that they naturalized abroad many manufactures which had hitherto
been unknown. England alone learnt from them the arts of silk-making,
Gobelins tapestry-making, and sail-making. What then became of the
guilds which remained in France, of the monopoly at which they aimed,
and of the secrecy which was one of their methods of securing it? It
was a terrible blow for them when, as at Abbeville, 80 families out of
160 left the country, or 1600 out of 2200, as happened at the election
of Amiens.[116] How, thus mutilated, could they stand against the
foreign competition of which their own members had become the most
formidable allies?

3. _The change in political conditions._--Changes in political
conditions affected the guilds even more than intellectual and
religious changes. Europe, in spite of waves of revolt, passed through
a period in which great powers prevailed. The State, which was becoming
centralized, increased its prerogatives and complacently interfered in
economic matters. The motives which determined its intervention were
sometimes a purely _political_ interest, sometimes a _fiscal_ interest,
sometimes a _public_ or _national_ interest.

(_a_) The political interest of Sovereigns is to subdue rival powers
within their territories. For this reason they first attacked the
liberties of any cities where the spirit was bad, that is to say, as a
King of Prussia said later, _frondeur_, intractable, or restless. In
Spain their _fueros_ were taken from them; in France, town liberties
decreased, till they were almost entirely destroyed by Richelieu and
Louis XIV. In Germany, the number of free Hanseatic cities dropped
from eighty to three. The Italian republics fell one by one under
the domination of a monarch, and, though Venice survived, she had
concentrated her government in the hands of three State judges,
magistrates as autocratic and irresponsible as kings. In the Low
Countries, Bruges lost all jurisdiction over her suburbs in 1435,
and Ghent lost the power in 1451, and also the right to nominate the
aldermen. Liége, like her neighbour Dinant, was destroyed, crushed,
reduced to nothing. In the following century Antwerp, suspected of
sympathy with the Reformation, lived under the Spanish yoke, pillaged
and down-trodden.

Municipal and guild life were so closely united that it was impossible
to strike at one without injuring the other. In the city of Liége,
the thirty-two crafts and the _perron_ which was the emblem of its
independence were taken away at a single stroke.

At Florence, no sooner had the Medicis become Dukes of Tuscany than
the Constitution of the _Arte_ was altered in such a way as to make
it impossible for them to exercise any influence in the direction
of public affairs. In England,[117] the king and Parliament agreed
in forbidding the guilds to make ordinances without the consent of
the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Crown Treasurer, or to fix
the price of goods, and aimed at supplanting them in supervising
the quality of products. The Statute of Labourers in 1563, in the
reign of Elizabeth, gave to justices of the peace, that is to say,
to magistrates who were not craftsmen, the right of fixing workmen's
wages. In France, Philip the Beautiful ill-treated the confraternities
and found no difficulty in modifying the rules of the Parisian
industries.[118] The Crown, however, differentiated between the guilds:
at the beginning of the fifteenth century, the doctor of theology, John
Gerson, lays down in the clearest terms the alliance between the Crown
and the rich burgesses: "All the harm," he says, "arises from the fact
that the king and the good burgesses have been put under servitude
by the outrageous enterprise of men of small standing.... God has
permitted it in order that we may know the difference between royal
domination and that of any people whatever: for that which is royal
is general and should be gentle: that of the low-born is a tyrannical
domination which destroys itself."[119] In accordance with this
principle, royalty was tactful in its dealings with the great guilds,
and willingly bestowed on them honorary privileges. Francis I. not only
confirmed to the Six Guilds, which formed the merchant aristocracy of
the capital, the precedence which they enjoyed at solemn functions, but
of the thirty-six wardens of these Greater Guilds as they would have
been called at Florence, he formed a High Council of Parisian industry.

Even with the others, the Crown proceeded gently at first. It desired
to absorb, and not to suppress. It realized what an advantage it would
be if these independent institutions, still under the influence of
their feudal origin, could be transformed into State institutions,
protected and obedient! It was with this end in view that Henry III.
decided that their organization, hitherto local, should be extended
throughout the whole kingdom, to the scattered villages as well as
to the towns. The city (urban) guild was therefore converted into a
national organism, and the guild was made compulsory at the same time
that it was put under tutelage. This unification, which placed it under
the direct supervision of royal agents, was, however, only to operate
on paper. It encountered the displeasure of the craft guilds; worse
still, it was in opposition to the first principle of the whole system.
The ordinance allowed the inhabitants of the suburbs to follow their
craft within the cities, and the inhabitants of one town to settle
in any other, with the exception of Paris[120]--a last concession to
an ancient tradition. It was something quite new for craftsmen to
possess equal rights and for crafts to be organized like those of Paris
throughout the whole of France; but it was only in accordance with the
general trend of French civilization. This sudden enlargement of the
guild system, however, was practically its death, and there were many
who from this time did not hesitate to say so openly.[121] The edict,
renewed by Henry IV. in 1597, was next extended to include merchants,
and was completed by the abolition of the _king of the mercers_, who
still exercised a certain amount of authority in the fairs; for even so
trumpery a king made the king at the Louvre uneasy!

The Crown was the less willing to give up its ideas of realizing unity
in the industrial domain in that it mistrusted the small crafts; it
bore in mind the fact that, formerly, when the Holy League tried to
create a sort of intermunicipal federal Republic, the masters' and
journeymen's confraternities eagerly joined in the attempt. It did not
forget that, in the time of the Fronde, the guilds were credited with
having had the repeal of the privileges granted to the great merchants
and the prohibition to import silks into the kingdom inserted in the
peace treaty forced on the Regent by his rebel subjects. Little by
little it reduced the authority remaining to them. It was tenacious in
carrying into every sphere the form of organization at which it aimed.
It made further attempts in 1673 and 1691; between the first date and
the second the guilds officially constituted and classified rose from
60 to 127, and what clearly shows the meaning of this administrative
classification is the fact that it nominated, or threatened the
nomination of, the headmen by officers of the Crown.

A very inadequate idea, however, of the encroachments of royal
authority will be gained if the solemn publication of edicts alone is
remembered, and the daily, incessant attempt of its agents to restrict
the jurisdiction both of local and of guild authorities is ignored.
No doubt a good deal of the economic jurisdiction formerly exercised
by the town magistrates still existed. Contraventions of regulations,
and struggles between producers and consumers, between employers and
employees, and between allied and rival crafts, were under municipal
jurisdiction.[122] The right of pronouncing judgment on such points as
falsifications, the observance of religious festivals, the price of
merchandise and the rate of wages, was still left to the municipality
by Colbert. Naturally its powers were greater or less according as the
town was royal, seigneurial, or communal. But it was not unusual for it
to retain the right of collecting taxes, and of nominating supervisors
who controlled crafts; for it to create masterships and organize
charity workshops which changed into regular factories; or to withhold
the monopoly granted to the guilds.

It is none the less true that communal jurisdiction grew less year
by year. Attention must be drawn to the fact that the craft guilds
sometimes passed it by and of their own accord applied to the central
authority for intervention. Thus, questions of provisions, public
health, monopoly, speculation, regulations for the prevention of
fraud, and the protection of apprentices, one by one came under the
jurisdiction of _parlements_, ministers, governors, and of their
delegates. Colbert, in his general rules for manufacture which
date from 1666 to 1669, codifies, in the name of the State, the
minute directions contained in the guild statutes on questions of
apportionment, bad work, etc.

At the end of the seventeenth century, then, the guilds still existed,
but had been subjugated and deprived of their principal rights. Behind
the solid front which they still presented were ruin, desolation, and

(_b_) It is probable that the Crown in France allowed them to
live and decline in peace because they supplied an easy method of
directing commerce and industry; but it was also because they were
fruitful sources of production. The Crown often disguised with fine
phrases the _fiscal interest_ which inspired it; it is, however,
easily discoverable in three different forms. Sometimes it confirmed,
strengthened, and extended the monopoly of the guilds and made them
pay for the favour; sometimes it sold to outsiders privileges which
encroached on and compromised this monopoly; and finally, it sometimes
threatened them, and only withdrew threats in return for ready money.

The great ordinance of 1581 and the special edict of taxes of 1673 may
be taken as examples of the first method. In 1581 the strengthening of
the organization of the guilds by purging them of certain abuses and
irregularities was the pretext cited; the king spoke and appeared to
act as the great national justice of the peace; but the real object of
the measure, which extended to the kingdom a system hitherto localized,
may well have been the filling of the royal treasury into which fell
a part of the matriculation fees paid by each new master. In 1673
trouble was no longer taken to find a pretext; the work was done by a
financial edict, that is, by the establishment of a method of taxation.
The guilds themselves encouraged these calls on their funds; indeed, in
1636, when France was in danger of invasion, they offered their wealth
and their services for the defence of the kingdom.

The second means, which consisted in creating privileges for which the
guilds paid and by which the king's coffers were filled, was invented
by Louis XI., who in 1461 instituted _letters of mastership_, which
exempted those who bought them from the examination of capability and
the expenses which the ordinary reception entailed. Soon the kings
introduced irregularities into the masters' guilds on every possible
occasion.[123] The blow could not miss its aim. If none were found to
take these licences, the guilds hastened to buy them up to prevent the
intrusion of new competitors. In vain they attempted to protest; the
procedure became habitual and legal. The great ordinance of 1581 stated
that the king would dispose of three letters of mastership in every
town and every craft.

This led to a third procedure. The guild was vulnerable at many points,
in its revenues and in its autonomy, as well as in its monopolies. If
a pretence was made of attacking its weak spots, it would pay in order
to be spared. It clung to the right of electing its own officers.
Now Francis I. had already introduced among them royal officers who
had naturally bought their office. At the end of the seventeenth
century the Crown, being short of money, renewed this expedient on a
large scale. In 1691 it declared its intention of replacing all the
officers and syndics by agents of its own nomination, and the guilds
had immediately to raise three hundred thousand pounds to avert the
calamity which threatened them. It was thus that the Jews and Lombards
had formerly liberated themselves. In 1694 the king took it into his
head to institute auditors and examiners to control their accounts;
another sacrifice of four hundred thousand pounds was demanded before
these were removed. In this way from year to year posts were created
and bought up. In 1711 the pressure brought to bear was even stronger
and more direct; the admission of new masters was forbidden, and they
were created by royal authority without the assent of the guilds. The
guilds gave everything that was demanded of them, everything at least
that was in their power; they borrowed, got into debt, became involved
and were on the verge of bankruptcy; just as the communes had formerly
succumbed under the weight of the too heavy burdens imposed on them by
the Crown.

(_c_) The Crown was not always actuated by such personally interested
motives; it sometimes happened that it was moved by nobler inspirations
in its relations with the craft guilds, and studied the general
interest when it restricted their exorbitant privileges.

In order to develop public assistance with little expense, those who
participated in works of charity were recompensed by being exonerated
from corporate obligations. In 1553 an edict conferred mastership
on all craftsmen who consented to teach their craft to the children
of the Hospital of the Trinity, and the hospital itself thus became
a factory working against the guilds. Several hospitals were in a
similar position. In the seventeenth century, however, it was with a
different aim,--the development of national industry,--that the Crown
deliberately created factories not under guild rule. Henry IV., in
order to naturalize in France the silk industry, which diverted from
the kingdom seven to eight thousand gold crowns annually, planted
mulberry trees, and brought in Italian workmen on whom he lavished
money and monopolies, and who were exempted from taxation, in order
that they might teach the art of weaving these valuable stuffs. In 1607
he installed, in the great gallery at the Louvre, a colony of foreign
craftsmen--a sort of industrial school of art where apprentices were
trained--who might establish themselves anywhere in the kingdom without
waiting to become masters. He thus launched the industry of luxury and
attempted to organize, over the heads of the guilds, that which was
most distasteful to them,--innovation, while their domain was still
further restricted by the special conditions granted to merchants who
followed the Court and became tradesmen by appointment to princes and
to the most brilliant of the nobility.

Colbert built up into a system what Henry IV. had practised, and great
factories rose at his command. These were of two kinds: first, _royal
factories_ properly so called--State establishments, in which all
expenses were borne by the Treasury; the director was nominated by the
king, and the privilege which they enjoyed was in perpetuity (the soap
works of Beauvais, Aubusson, the naval workshops in the ports, etc.).
Others, also called "royal factories," were, in spite of this ambiguous
name, private enterprises; they enjoyed important privileges, such as
exemption from taxes, subsidies, or titles of nobility for those who
directed them; but they were only temporary, and the company, with a
private individual at its head, was worked at its own risk and peril.
I will only quote one example, the cloth factory of the Van Robais at
Abbeville. No matter what their methods of administration, for the
guilds they were so many formidable competitors, and it is easy to
imagine the futile complaints and remonstrances of which they were the

(_d_) We have described in detail the policy of the French Crown
with regard to the craft guilds, partly because this book is written
in France and for the French, but also because it developed with
remarkable logic and continuity. In neighbouring countries, however,
what happened was, if not exactly the same, at least similar.

In England, when we study the encroachments of the central authority,
we find that, in spite of the Commons, who represented the commercial
class, the kings authorized foreign merchants to reside in the ports
where originally they had to sell their cargoes wholesale within forty
days, and that in 1335 they were allowed to trade freely throughout
the kingdom.[124] We find three Parliaments in turn making laws to
impose certain industrial methods on the whole country, and many acts
of legislation are to be found regulating "the size and weight of
pieces of stuff, the methods of stretching and dyeing, the preparation
of wool by means of certain ingredients the use of which was allowed
or forbidden, the finishing of cloth, folding and packing, etc."[125]
A whole army of officials was needed to see that these complicated
laws,--which from being guild laws became national laws,--were not
broken. In 1563 the Statute of Labourers codified in this way, in the
name of the State, rules for apprenticeship and for other matters which
had hitherto been in force among the craft guilds.

At Florence, from the year 1580, under the rule of the Medicis, who
had become sovereign princes, the statutes of the Guild of Silk or Por
Santa Maria,--hitherto the most important Guild,--were reconstituted,
and governors, whose jurisdiction extended over the whole of Tuscany,
were set up beside the consuls. These were still elected by the
masters, but if one of the chosen magistrates were not approved (_la
grazia_) by His Serene Highness, that was enough to disqualify him.
From this time no subject could be brought up for debate in the
assemblies of the _Arte_ unless it had first been submitted to the said
Serene Highness, who could either allow it to be introduced or could
stop its passage.[126] In 1583 His Highness took upon himself to unite
two ancient guilds (Fabbricanti and Por San Piero); he had the seal of
the new guild remade, and the statutes, which even fixed the salaries
of the officers, reconstituted.

By degrees the consuls ceased to be chosen from _Arti_ over which they
nominally presided; they became personages who assumed honorary titles,
and the actual power was in the hands of "deputies" (to-day we should
call them delegates) nominated by the prince;[127] the organization
of crafts became purely bureaucratic and the ancient _Calimala_ a
mere charitable body. Wherever tribunals and chambers of commerce or
technical schools were formed, wherever foreign craftsmen were called
in and welcomed, there it may be said that the doom of the guilds was



The guilds could only have been successful in their resistance to all
these menaces if they had possessed plasticity, flexibility in adapting
themselves, a desire for reformation, an eagerness to fall in with
every new demand society might make, a spirit of continuity, unity, and
justice,--in fact, such a combination of strong and great qualities as
is rarely to be met with in the history of human institutions.

We shall find that, instead of this, they allowed their inherent faults
and failings, which we have already discovered in germ, to develop at
the very height of their prosperity.

It will be seen at a glance that three things grew up in their midst:
_a lack of solidarity between those who occupied the various degrees of
the hierarchy_; _divisions between the different craft guilds_; _and a
narrow traditionalism which could not even ensure the good quality of

Let us trace the disastrous effects of these three dissolvent forces.

I. _Division in the heart of the Guilds._--(_a_) In principle there
existed in the guild a hierarchy which justified its own existence.
It was founded on age and election. On the one hand, an inequality
which time corrected every day and finally did away with. Adolescence
was the age of apprenticeship; early manhood that of the journeyman;
maturity that of mastership; and a man's earnings, independence, and
power increased not only with the years, but according to his talent
and capabilities. On the other hand--and here we have a still more
provisional inequality--the elected officers received for a few months
only, a power which they exercised under strict control, and then went
modestly back into the ranks.

This order of things, however, was soon upset by the growing domination
of hereditary power and of wealth.

The masters, anxious to secure a life of ease for their posterity,
and filled with a sort of dynastic ambition, made the acquisition of
mastership more and more difficult for those who had not the good luck
to be their sons, nephews, or sons-in-law. Even in the Middle Ages they
had given way to the influence of domestic affection, but, as modern
times draw nearer, the circle of the privileged narrows. Those who
were connected with the family by any tie received all the favours;
periods of apprenticeship, rights and expenses of admissions, were
reduced or done away with; technical proofs of ability degenerated
into a simple formality which could be passed through at home. For
every one else, old obligations were not only maintained but added
to; expenses increased to such an extent that in France the Crown
intervened more than once to prevent their rise;[128] crying injustices
served as a pretext for the great ordinance of 1581; candidates were
taken advantage of and made to give banquets, even when they had been
refused admission; the tests became more and more complicated, cost
more and more, and were often conducted with revolting partiality. As
if this were not enough, the guilds arbitrarily reduced the number of
masterships, some of them refusing to admit new masters for ten years,
while others definitely decided only to admit the sons of masters.
From the sixteenth century, the butchers in Paris, Poitiers, and other
places quite frankly decreed that mastership was to be hereditary among

The same narrowing down applied to the attainment of magistracies. The
duties of wardens and officers tended to be perpetuated in certain
families: the electoral lists were weeded out in such a way as only to
include the oldest masters. Sometimes even the officers nominated their
successors, and this gave them the opportunity of forming a permanent
oligarchy which divided the honours among its members. One step more
in the same direction would have been enough to make them in turn

The influence of money was combined with this family favouritism,
counteracting it at times, but usually backing it up. None could
be master unless he were rich, for the cost of admission, in the
eighteenth century in France, rose to 1500 and 1800 francs. At the end
of the seventeenth century, in the same country, the guilds which were
in debt themselves sold letters of mastership to the highest bidder
or contracted debts with their richest members, and even put up the
wardenships for sale.

(_b_) These measures, which, through the fault of the guilds
themselves, falsified the normal action of their statutes, were
accompanied by an increasingly strict subjection of inferiors to

The journeymen were treated with growing severity. Not only were
they forbidden as heretofore to set up for themselves, but their
condition was certainly worse in the seventeenth century than in the
thirteenth. The working day, which averaged twelve hours, was prolonged
to sixteen during the lighter months. Holidays, reduced in number by
the Reformation, were in turn reduced by the Catholics. La Fontaine's
cobbler, who worked on his own account, complained of M. le curé who

    De quelque nouveau saint charge toujours son prône.

But the journeyman, who had no reason to dislike so many holidays; was
not pleased to find their number decreasing in the following century.
The increase in the nominal wages was not enough to compensate for
the rise in the price of provisions and rent; the value of gold and
silver had gone down considerably since the influx of precious metals
which the New World had poured over Europe. More than this, at the
very time when cheap labour was increasing through the employment of
peasants, women, and children, the jealous persistence of the masters
in barring entrance into the higher grade to those among their workmen
who possessed the necessary capabilities made the price of hired labour
fall still lower. _Compagnonnage_ acted as a check on these causes of
depression, but it was quite insufficient, and was hampered in many

This ever-deepening separation between masters and journeymen was
followed by separations between the masters themselves. In certain
guilds they became divided into the _young_, _modern_, _old_, and
_bachelor masters_--these last ex-officers,--each section possessing
different rights.

The officers abused their rights to visit, search, seize, and fine;
the regulations were so difficult to carry out literally, that it was
always possible to discover some weak point in them by means of which
a rival could be annoyed. Money could also be made at his expense
if the delinquent would and could pay to be let off. The officers
thus created a monopoly within a monopoly--and, if we may judge by
the enquiries and lawsuits to which it gave rise,[129] an extremely
profitable monopoly. In 1684 the officers of the cloth-of-gold and silk
workers were convicted of having taken £72 for authorizing a breach of
the rules. It may well be imagined what a source of angry discontent
were those breaches of trust, and it will be seen to what an extent the
guild system had been discredited by the very persons whose mission it
was to see it loyally carried out.

2. _Division between the craft guilds._--One is sometimes tempted
to say that the guild system had no worse enemies than the guilds
themselves, so much bitterness did they display in their quarrels and
recriminations. Town fought with town, and in spite of the efforts
made by the central authority to unite them they had no idea whatever
of agreeing or combining among themselves. Every one has heard of the
interminable disputes which dragged on between the Hanses of Paris and
Rouen concerning the navigation of the Seine.[130] Each had, within its
own region, the monopoly of the transport industry, one from the bridge
of Charenton to that of Nantes, the other, from the latter point to
the mouth of the river. The fight between the two powerful companies
lasted several hundred years, till at last the day arrived when the two
monopolies were impartially suppressed by the Crown.

In each town, as the line drawn between two crafts was often vague
and purely conventional, the guilds were more rivals than allied
neighbours. Lawsuits resulted which, on account of their length
and the expense of legal proceedings, were absolutely ruinous to
both parties. They are mentioned at Poitiers, which was at law for a
century.[131] At Paris, the lawsuit between the wine-merchants and
the Six Guilds lasted a hundred and fifty years. The founders within
a few years[132] entered into actions "against the edge-tool makers
to prevent them from making fire-dogs; against the needle and awl
makers to contest their right of selling thimbles other than those of
Paris; against the gilders to claim from them the exclusive right of
founding, working up, and repairing copper goods; against the makers
of weights and measures to claim equal rights with them in selling
half-pound weights;[133] against the pin-makers, makers of kitchen
utensils, button-makers, and sculptors." In England, the bow-makers
might not make arrows, and the right was reserved to a special class
of arrow-makers. Legal expenses for the Paris guilds alone amounted
to nearly a thousand a year towards the middle of the eighteenth
century. From a sense of _esprit de corps_, however, they persisted in
wasting their substance, to the benefit of the legal profession which
made enormous profits, and they defied royal edicts which attempted
to restrain their zeal in litigation. They were far from putting into
practice the motto of the Six Guilds, _Vincit concordia fratrum_; far
from realizing that solidarity which was the very object of the guild

3. _Vexatious regulations._--The guilds were not only jealous of each
other but also devoid of economic initiative. This was on account of
the privileges they held. As each one possessed a monopoly, they were
inclined to go to sleep in the little closed domain which belonged
to them. How could they be expected to go in search of improvements,
when they were so slow in adopting them? St. Routine was their common
patron. The application of a new method might promise larger profits or
lessen the cost of production; but it was certain to entail expense,
risk, and effort. It seemed to them easier to shut themselves behind
a wall like the Great Wall of China. Every innovation encountered
their determined opposition. A few instances chosen from among a
thousand will suffice to prove their obstinate conservatism. I will
take one from Great Britain.[134] "In 1765, on the eve of those great
inventions which were entirely to transform working appliances, it was
forbidden, under penalty of a fine, to substitute metal carders for
the teazles still in use in the greater number of the branches of the
textile industry." I will take two other instances from France; at
Poitiers[135] the cap-makers greeted the advent of loom-made stockings
with marked disfavour, and at Paris the disputes between Erard, the
maker of clavecins, and the musical-instrument makers are well known.

This exaggerated respect for tradition was also the result of the
change which had taken place in the internal government of the guilds.
Their direction had passed into the hands of the old members, who,
no doubt, possessed the experience of age, but had also that fear of
everything new so common to those of advanced years.

Like so many other closed and static bodies, the guilds were faithful
to the past, hostile to the future, and were to find themselves without
resources and defenceless when they had to meet the cold but tonic
breath of that competition, which is no doubt cruel for the weak
and death to ill-timed enterprise, but which is also stimulating to
human activity and an encouragement to the progress of industrial and
commercial technique.

Would that their tyrannical regulations had succeeded in guaranteeing
honest exchange and good quality of production! In this respect,
however, they no longer exercised the least control. Antoine de
Montchrestien in the time of Henry IV. denounced the deceptions of
commerce and industry.[136] In England from the fourteenth century damp
spices, second-hand furs, and sheep-skins passing as buck-skin were on
the market, and in the woollen trade the principle arose that it is for
the buyer to take his own precautions.[137]

Henceforth the statutes were broken by the very people who had made
them and sworn to keep them. Men were found practising several
professions, cornering raw materials and carrying on clandestine sales
below the fixed tariffs; illegal practices for securing clients or for
enticing away a colleague's workmen became common. Over and over again
the officers and wardens of a craft had to inflict severe punishments,
but in many cases they were themselves guilty supervisors in need of
supervision! Their frauds often merited the condemnation they received.

Thus, through their own failings, quite as much as through the action
of unfavourable surroundings, the guild system dwindled away, till,
near the end of the seventeenth century, it was little more than one
of those worn-out institutions which live on from force of habit;
institutions which one hesitates to help in destroying, because it is
difficult to know how they can be replaced, but so weak and tottering
that they are at the mercy of the first shock. The eighteenth century
was to give them their _coup de grâce_.



1. _Their suppression in European Countries._--(_a_) The eighteenth
century, the first half of which was an age of analysis, criticism,
and social satire, was in its second half a time of innovation and
invention, bold in its theory and practice, eager to correct and reform
social organization in accordance with an ideal of justice born of
reason. It was therefore both destructive and constructive.

In its first years it saw the beginning of a new economic phase. A
revolution, as serious as that caused by the discovery of America
and the sea-route to the Indies, began to operate in the world. As
usual, it was commerce which, by its vast extension, broke the bounds
within which society had been circumscribed. It was conscious of its
importance and dignity. Voltaire sang the praises of the merchant
"who enriched the country, and from his office gives orders to Surata
and Cairo, and contributes to the happiness of the world." Sedaine,
in the _Philosophe sans le Savoir_, calls the merchant "the man of
universe," and compares the traders to so many "threads of silk which
bind together the nations and lead them back to peace by the needs
of commerce." In 1760 Turgot proposed to ennoble the great traders,
and great lords were not above going into business. The Duke of La
Force was a wholesale grocer. On the sea there was the continual
coming and going of vessels which ploughed the oceans, ransacked
the archipelagoes, and opened up yet another continent, Australia,
to European conquest: on land, improved means of communication and
transport trebled the passenger and goods traffic. England at that time
had her "canal fever": in France the wonderful network of roads was the
admiration of all strangers.

In all civilized nations the enterprise of Banks, Bourses, great
Companies and Chambers of Commerce resulted in such a circulation of
money and boldness of enterprise as had never been seen. All this
necessitated an intensity of production hitherto unknown, and the
invention of new methods. It was now necessary to create and supply
the demands of consumers who were no longer confined to the limits of
a State, however large it might be, but scattered over the face of the
globe; who no longer numbered a few hundred thousands, but amounted to
dozens or hundreds of millions. In short, markets began to expand to
the very ends of the earth, and the period of international economics
set in.

In this commercial expansion, European capitalism played the chief
part, and, in Europe, England held the chief place. Mistress of the
sea and of a colonial empire of which India and North America were
the most valuable possessions, she became enormously rich; France and
Holland followed, but some distance behind. We already know the natural
tendencies of "great" commerce: it dislikes all barriers and hindrances
to its activity. It always had been and was once more inimical to the
system of the closed market so dear to the small craft guilds. Its
ideal was free trade. So true is this that in France, in 1654,[138]
the Six Guilds strongly protested against the taxes which struck at the
importation of goods made outside the kingdom; moreover the liberal
movement against the guilds emanated from the merchant aristocracy, and
Gournay, its exponent in France, held the title of director of commerce.

"Great" industry developed with unprecedented strength under the same
impetus. The aged tree, in which the sap was still rising, suddenly
put forth vigorous branches. In England, engineering and coal-mining
are prime necessaries to its life, and the cotton industry imported
from the Indies attracted many thousands of workers in a few years
and kept them permanently employed. This industrial revolution took
place both in those vast enterprises in which the ancient hierarchy
of apprentices, journeymen, and masters became meaningless--since a
handful of masters possessed the capital and appliances, while the mass
of workmen possessed nothing:--and in those new enterprises which, like
the manufacture of cotton fabrics, owed to their recent origin the
fact that they had never been under the old guild system. The guilds
themselves could not but suffer from the extraordinary growth which
took place beside but outside their system.

Three forces in especial worked against them--three forces which led to
invention, to the transformation of technique, and so to the overthrow
of traditional rules: these were, the desire to save labour--a desire
which dominates all human activity,--science, and fashion.

(_b_) At first, masters and workmen were agreed on one point--the
reduction of effort which was imposed on them, and which meant
reduction of expenses for the former, and reduction of labour for the
latter. Workmen and workwomen had suffered from the imperfection of
the tools they had used, and from the craft which they carried on; for
generations they had contracted diseases and infirmities which were a
trade-mark; the silk workers of Lyons for instance were recognized by
their bent knees. Having seen their parents and grandparents die in
hospital, tired and worn out before their time, they eagerly sought for
means whereby they could save themselves, their children, and their
comrades, from dangerous and exhausting work. They thought out and
tried ingenious methods for lightening their tasks. The first inventors
of improvements were thus workers, familiar with the machines which
were their daily companions. From the time when the cotton industry
became mechanical in England we can follow the rivalry--the struggle
for speed which for half a century went on between spinning and
weaving, each in turn getting ahead of and then being passed by the
other;[139] it was a duel between inventors who were simple workmen
and happened to be mechanics. In France, Vaucanson and Jacquard did
the same thing for silk in Lyons, where labour was less regulated than
elsewhere. They were encouraged and led by their masters and sometimes
by the State; but they were unfortunate in unexpectedly encountering
the hostility of the silk workers whom they thought to help. This was
because (and there is nothing which more clearly demonstrates the
faults in the organization of labour) the introduction of all new
machinery, while it operates in favour of the master by advancing
the speed of production, throws on the streets a certain number of
workmen who are no longer wanted, and who, while waiting for increased
production to give them back their means of livelihood, fall a prey to
famine and misery. Montesquieu wrote on this subject:[140]

"If an article is of a fairly low price, and one which equally suits
him who buys it and the workman who has made it, machines which would
simplify its manufacture, that is to say diminish the number of
workmen, would be injurious; and if water-mills were not everywhere
established, I should not believe them to be as useful as people say,
because they throw innumerable hands out of work...."

This explains the curious spectacle offered by the world of labour
in the eighteenth century; the masters in "great" industry, like the
wholesale traders, were the revolutionaries; their workmen, like the
guilds, were the reactionaries.

(_c_) Science, however, was not long in coming to the rescue of the
inventors who had risen from the working class. The scientists, whose
function it is to increase human knowledge and the power of men
over nature, gave proof in their turn of creative imagination; they
captured and tamed hitherto unused or rebel forces: steam, subdued
and enslaved, became the magician which began by giving movement to
bands, wheels, hands of steel and iron, carriages and boats, and ended
by carrying on every sort of craft. It could spin, weave, screw,
rivet, plane, full, lift up, saw, cut off, glean, thresh corn, etc.
Chemistry and physics were by no means inferior to mechanical science;
they composed and decomposed bodies, transformed and melted them one
into another, created new ones by bold combinations, produced heat,
light, and energy. What weight had the old regulations in view of this
transformation of methods and appliances? Who could uphold them? The
guilds in defending them were like men with spades who should try to
stop a train going at full speed.

(_d_) Fashion acts in the same manner, for the word is synonymous with
change. It is a power in every country, but particularly where there
is smart, worldly society. The guilds learnt this to their cost in a
matter which was the talk of the court for years. In France an edict,
inspired by them, had prohibited the use of printed cottons which came
from India. They might be seized anywhere, even on people who were
wearing them. But it was an absurd notion to try to check by force the
changes of taste, when women, who love novelty in dress as much as they
often do in matters of belief and custom, took it into their heads to
wear a material which pleased them! The Marquise of Nesles appeared
openly in the gardens of the Tuileries, dressed in Indian cotton. They
dared not arrest her! Other Court ladies did as she had done, and,
after a long struggle, printed cottons won the day; they were installed
at the very gates of Paris, and made the fortune of Oberkampf their
manufacturer, and were well known under the name of "toiles de Jouy"!

(_e_) While the defences behind which the guilds had taken refuge were
thus battered down, a crusade against them was begun by public opinion.
Economists and philosophers united in attacking their principles in the
name of liberty and equality, two ideas which roused much enthusiasm
in the world at that time. The guilds were denounced as opposed to the
general interest of producers in that they stood for privilege and
exclusiveness and prevented numbers of people, who could neither enter
them nor set up beside them, from earning an honest livelihood. They
were condemned as being contrary to the general interests of consumers;
for, burdened with enormous debts, wasting their money in festivals,
feasts, and legal expenses, condemned to laborious methods of
manufacture through their inability to improve them, they were yet able
by means of their monopolies to keep up prices and to make unduly large
profits, without even being capable of satisfying their clients if they
expressed the smallest desire to have something out of the ordinary.

The physiocrats had another grievance against the guilds: they were
opposed to them because they diverted capital from the cultivation
of the land, in which, according to them, it would have been used to
much greater advantage. By degrees, among the two peoples which led
the European thought of the time--Great Britain and France,--these
accusations were condensed into a formula which was the death-warrant
of the guilds: _Laissez-faire! Laissez-passer!_ At Edinburgh in 1776
Adam Smith's famous work appeared, and was looked on as the Gospel of
the new doctrine. In 1775 there appeared in Paris a posthumous work by
President Bigot of Sainte-Croix, entitled _An Essay on the Freedom of
Commerce and Industry_.

2. It was in England, the country in which regulation was then
weakest and where it had not touched great cities like Manchester
and Birmingham,[141] where "great" commerce and "great" industry
made the strongest and most rapid advances, that these theories most
quickly triumphed, born as they were of surrounding realities. But,
in accordance with the English custom, there was no violent rupture
with the past, no solemn repudiation of theories hitherto followed,
no complete and sudden abolition of the guild system. The change in
economic organization came by a series of small local and partial
measures. The Statute of Labourers had in 1563 unified and codified
the rules of the Middle Ages; these were not wholly repealed, but,
in 1728,[142] the master hat-makers, dyers, and cotton printers
demanded of Parliament (and obtained their demand fifty years later)
that they should be exempt from obeying the rules as to the number of
apprentices, who might be replaced by men hands. In 1753 the statutes
of the stocking-makers were abolished as "injurious and vexatious
to the manufacturers" and "hurtful to the trade," as "against all
reason and opposed to the liberty of English subjects." In vain the
workers sometimes united with the small masters, and sought behind
these crumbling shelters protection against the ills inflicted on
them by the development of "great" industry and of machinery; in vain
they hoped for the application of the law which entrusted to the
justices of the peace the duty of fixing their wages; in vain they
made enormous sacrifices to get their rights established in legal
documents.[143] From the year 1756 the weavers of napery were abandoned
to their fate by the House of Commons. After a period of hesitation
and self-contradiction, "governmental nihilism" became under similar
circumstances the policy of Parliament. But it was still more than half
a century before the statute of 1563, which had survived from a former
age, disappeared under the blows struck at it by the "great" tradesmen;
it was suspended, then abolished for the wool industry in 1809, and
finally done away with in 1814. Almost at the same date, in 1813, the
right of fixing the wages of labour was taken away from justices of
the peace. Of the economic legislation of the Middle Ages, there still
remained the laws which prohibited workers from forming any sort of
combination, and decided that in every dispute the word of a master
should be accepted before that of a servant; but of the guilds nothing
was left but atrophied and lifeless bodies, which were little more than
memories, or names often given to what were far from being professional

In France, where there is a love of unity, logic, and harmony, things
developed differently. Guild monopolies continued, it is true, by means
of bribery; but their domain was narrowed by the creation of the Sèvres
factory and the Royal Printing Press, and by the working of many mines
at the expense of the State. In 1762 all industrial privileges were
limited to fifteen years, a serious menace directed against privileges
which had been held to be perpetual. In the same year the freedom of
rural industry was proclaimed; in 1763 that of the leather trade, and
in 1765 that of wholesale trade for commons as well as nobles. The corn
trade, in spite of the fear of monopoly, profited by a similar liberty
for a short time (1763). Simultaneously, the guilds were stripped, and
their doors thrown open. In 1755 it was decided that foreign journeymen
might be hired in every town in the kingdom except Paris, Lyons,
Lille, and Rouen. In 1767 the doors were opened wide to foreigners
and Jews--competitors as much hated as feared. In the same year the
invasion was completed by a large number of letters of mastership which
gave every craft in Paris twelve new masters, and every craft in the
provinces from eight to two, while the purchase of these licences by
the Six Guilds was not authorized even if a larger sum were offered.
Monopoly was therefore extended, not destroyed. But such a solution
was merely a compromise, and things developed in the direction of
suppression pure and simple.

It was Turgot, as every one knows, who took upon himself to do away
with wardenships and masterships. A disciple of both Gournay and
Quesnay, he condemned them in the name of industry and agriculture,
and in the interests of consumers and producers. The famous edict
of March 1776, which he signed as minister of Louis XVI., declared
that they were abolished throughout the kingdom with four exceptions:
the _wig-makers_, who held posts sold to them by the State itself;
the _printer-booksellers_, the supervision of whom was kept by
the authorities for political reasons; the _goldsmiths_, because
the sale of precious metals was under special legislation; and
the _apothecaries_, as the control of their trade was considered
necessary for public health. The property of the guilds was sold and
the proceeds, together with the funds in hand, were used for wiping
out their debts. The confraternities were done away with at the same
time, and their wealth handed over to the bishops. All associations of
masters or journeymen were prohibited.

Such an edict, completely revolutionizing the organization of labour,
could not pass without obstruction and resistance. The Parlement,
as defender of the ancient traditions of France, only registered it
under protest and at the express wish of the king; the Six Guilds
were defended by the writings of a man whose name will for ever have
a sinister sound--Dr. Guillotin. The unrest was intense; the freedom
of the corn trade served as a pretext, if not a real cause, for
riots known as the "flour war." Turgot had made a St. Bartholomew of
privileges, therefore all the privileged combined against him. The
king said to him, "Only you and I love the people, M. Turgot." Some
days after, the king dismissed him, and, on August 28, the edict was
repealed. Wardens and masters were reestablished, first in Paris and a
little later in the other towns. But so decayed a system as this could
not suffer even the most passing effacement with impunity. At first it
did not reappear in its entirety and the number of free crafts remained
considerably larger. It could only live at all by reforming itself, so
the rights and expenses of reception were reduced by half, two-thirds,
or sometimes even three-quarters; kindred crafts were fused and the
practice of several crafts at once authorized; women were admitted to
mastership in men's communities and _vice versa_; foreigners, too,
could now aspire to mastership. But the original narrowness persisted;
a new inequality sprang up between _masters_ and _fellows_; the rules
for maintaining internal discipline and the domestic authority of the
employers over the workmen became, not less, but more rigorous; the
journeymen were still forbidden to have common funds, to assemble
without permission, or to be together more than three at a time; to
carry arms, to concern themselves with the hiring of labour, to leave
work unfinished, or to present themselves without a letter of discharge
from their last master. A strike could always be punished as a
desertion of work. A maximum wage was always fixed as well as the time
allowed for the mid-day meal. The regulations for manufacture, however,
became less strict; under Necker's ministry, the manufacturer might
choose whether he would conform to them or not. If he did, he had the
right to have his goods stamped, and stuffs so made were distinguished
by a special selvage; other products received the "stamp of freedom."

The commercial treaty, concluded with England in 1786, severely tried
the system already so weakened. The guilds suddenly found themselves
exposed at many points to foreign competition, and complained bitterly
when the convocation of the States-General gave France the opportunity
of expressing her opinion, along with other more important subjects, on
the existence of the guilds.

The debate reports of 1789 betray a certain indecision on the matter;
the two privileged classes--nobles and clergy--when they were not
indifferent to the whole question, leant towards suppression; the Third
Estate--for the election of which the small crafts had not received
equal treatment with "great" commerce, the liberal professions, and the
rich bourgeoisie--were divided almost equally, one half favouring the
abolition, the other the reformation, which implied the retention, of
the system.

Apparently at first the latter carried the day. On the night of August
4, 1789, the reformation of masterships was one of the numerous motions
voted with enthusiasm. But less than two years later, in March 1791,
in a bill for the taxation of licences, the mover, Dallard, had the
following article (number 8), inserted:

    From April 1 next, inclusive, every citizen will be free to carry
    on whatever profession or trade seems good to him, after having
    procured and paid for a licence.

This meant the end of masterships and wardenships. An indemnity was
to be allowed the masters for the money they had spent, and to the
wigmakers and to the barbers for the posts they had bought. With no
fuss, almost without discussion, and without finding any one to defend
them in the Assembly, the guilds ceased to be after an existence which
had lasted for many centuries.

In June of the same year, a new law was destined to stifle any
inclination they might have shown to come to life again. The pretext
given for condemning them to their fate was the formation of societies
of workers with the object of raising wages. Chapelier, affirming
that it was the duty of the State to assist the infirm and find work
for those who needed it in order to live, protested against every
association which claimed to substitute a collective contract for the
individual contract between master and workers.[144] Article 2 of the
law in question reads:

    Citizens of the same condition or profession, middlemen, those who
    keep open shops, workmen and _compagnons_ of whatever art, may not,
    when they find themselves together, nominate president, secretary
    or syndic, keep registers, pass resolutions, make regulations for
    what they claim to be their common interests, or bind themselves by
    agreements leading to the concerted refusal or to the granting only
    at a certain price, of the help of their industry and labours.

According to a phrase taken from a petition addressed by the
master-builders to the municipality of Paris, the above resolutions
and agreements, if they ever happened to be made, had to be declared
"unconstitutional, opposed to liberty and to the declaration of the
rights of Man"; the authors, instigators, and signatories of these acts
or writings were to pay a fine of £500 each, and to be deprived for
a year of their rights of active citizenship. Severer penalties were
provided in all cases of threat and unlawful assembly.

Thus pure reaction, excessive and impracticable, set in against trade
combination; compulsory isolation was established under the false name
of freedom of work, and in consequence the weak were abandoned to
the mercy of the strong, and the poor to the mercy of the rich; the
individual, naked and unarmed, was put face to face with the individual
armed at every point; in the economic domain a mere agglomeration
was substituted for any kind of organization. But besides being
the culminating point of a long evolution, this reaction was the
starting-point of a new development which created the modern Labour
Movement. We must next take a rapid survey of Europe and see what was
the fate of the guilds in other countries.

In Holland, where they had never been very strong, they counted for
nothing after 1766. In Tuscany, from 1759 to 1766, a great inquiry was
held into the state of the _Arti_, and following on the information
obtained, the Archduke Peter-Leopold brought about, by means of
decrees, a reform which was revolutionary in character. On February
3, 1770, he abolished enrolment fees throughout the duchy, with the
exception of two or three small territories like that of Livurnia,
and decided that, in order to ply a trade, it should be enough
henceforth to be inscribed once and for all on a general register. In
consideration of a fee of £2 at most, a man might, if he wanted to,
follow more than one calling or open several shops. The only exceptions
were the doctors, apothecaries, and goldsmiths, who were still subject
to special obligations, and silk manufacturers, who kept a few ancient
privileges. On February 17 of that year all the guild tribunals were
abolished and all their powers vested in a _Chamber of Commerce, Arts,
and Manufactures_, which had not only legal rights but also the duty of
watching over the economic interests of the country, encouraging and
assisting poor craftsmen, and administering the estates formerly held
by the guilds which had thus been wiped out at a stroke of the pen. The
clauses are curious and confirm what we have said concerning the action
of princes. The Archduke expresses his wish that "such matters shall
be regulated by a single authority, on fixed and uniform principles
directed to the universal good of the State." The bakers were no longer
compelled to make loaves of a fixed weight; the merchants were exempted
from paying for weights and measures which they hardly ever used but
which they were forced to possess.[145] The glorious guilds of Florence
had lived for centuries and were to leave their mark behind them for
a long time to come; it was only in 1907 that the winding-up of the
property which had belonged to the _Arte della Lana_ was concluded.

In Lombardy, from 1771 onwards, under the rule of the Empress Maria
Theresa, a similar reform took place; in 1786 it was Sicily's turn;
throughout the rest of Italy, all that remained of the ancient guild
system disappeared under the French domination and the Napoleonic
Code. The same thing happened in Belgium, where, after the decree of
17 Brumaire, Year IV., nothing was left but shadowy guilds, such as
that of St. Arnoldus at Bruges, or the "Nations" at Antwerp.[146] In
Germany the guild system was more tenacious and was only to disappear,
in certain States, when German unity was almost realized. The Code of
the Confederation of Northern Germany declared for its abolition in all
the countries under its jurisdiction.

3. The guilds, then, were long in dying, and in addition to a few
survivals,[147] there were even some attempts made here and there to
revive them during the nineteenth century.

In France, from the days of the Consulate and of the Empire,
professional guilds (notaries, lawyers, solicitors, law-court officers,
stockbrokers, etc.) were formed and still exist. The practice of more
than one profession--such as medicine, dispensing, printing--remained
under the control of the public authority. Butchers and bakers, under
new regulations, remained in this state till 1858 and 1863. In 1805,
three hundred wine-sellers demanded, without success, the restoration
of the old craft guilds and of their own in particular. Under the
Restoration, which undertook the task of restoring institutions which
the storms of the Revolution had destroyed, other petitions of the same
nature found a few partisans in the "_Chambre Introuvable_" and in some
of the General Councils;[148] but although "the small" crafts were
in favour of this return to the past, "great" trade, which had been
hostile to wardenships and masterships, was strongly opposed to it. The
Chamber of Commerce of Paris and the bankers were among the first to
fight and defeat these ideas.

It is among Catholics especially that such ideas have been awakened;
inspired by sincere pity for the misery of the working classes who
have been so long without protection, they have often been filled with
the desire to create an organization for the propagation of social
peace between masters and workers. During the reign of Louis-Philippe,
Buchez, Villeneuve Bargemont, La Farelle, and Buret tried to bring the
guild idea to life again. In 1848 it publicly reappeared for a short
time, when the provisional government received hundreds of deputations
classed according to their trades, and Louis Blanc nominated, according
to craft guilds, delegates for the Commission of the Luxembourg, and
when _compagnonnage_ paraded its beribboned canes and splendid works of
art in the processions of the republican festivals; but it was already
modified; masters and workmen formed separate groups. More recently,
in 1891, it has been advocated in eloquent but vague terms by Pope Leo
XIII., and Catholic circles, founded by M. de Mun, have tried to put it
into practice.

But it has always encountered obstacles which have arrested its
progress. First there have been disagreements between those who favour
the idea. Should the guild be optional or compulsory, open or closed?
What share should masters and workmen take in it? Should it aim only at
mutual assistance, or should it be competent to act in disputes between
members? On the one hand there were those who were afraid of reviving
the tyrannical monopoly of the old wardenships and on the other those
who were afraid of forming, without meaning to do so, the framework for
a socialistic organization of labour. All this was enough to paralyse
those who might have been willing to join. But there was an even
greater difficulty; though some of the great employers, those of the
Val des Bois for example, supported the cause, the working classes, not
unreasonably, stood aloof, uneasy and defiant. They dreaded any sort of
patronage in which the heads would bombard them with pious exhortations
and hold up to them the dismal virtue of resignation; they remembered
M. Claudio Jannet's confession that he looked to Christianity "to solve
the social question by inspiring masters with the spirit of justice
and charity, and by making the less-favoured classes _accept their
lot_." They could not forget that the Holy Father had written that
the guilds should have "religion for their guide," and they thought
they had a foretaste of the fate in store for them, in the statutes of
association of the printer-bookseller-bookbinders of Paris in the new
model (1879): "_Art._ III. To belong a man must be a Catholic. _Art._
IV. Must bind himself not to work, or employ another on Sunday. _Art._
V. To print no irreligious book." In short, they were afraid of putting
themselves under the yoke of the confessional and of losing their
liberty of thought, and they looked on an institution from which were
excluded in advance all who did not hold a certificate of orthodoxy, as
too much resembling the Middle Ages, and as an anachronism in a society
where rights are equal for all citizens irrespective of religion.

A few theorists[149] no doubt prided themselves on enlarging this
narrow conception; but the compulsory guilds, open and federated, which
they dreamed of instituting, were so different from the old guilds that
there was really nothing in common except the name.

It was in Austria, in surroundings less cut off from the past than
in France, that guilds more resembling the original type awoke to
an appearance of life.[150] Created by law in 1883, they have set
before themselves some of the aims of the _Arti_ of Florence, viz.
the safeguarding of the honour of the trade and, to this end, the
regulation of apprenticeship; the foundation or assistance of
institutions for technical instruction; the exaction of a preliminary
examination from any one who wishes to set up as a craftsman or
merchant; the buying of raw material at the expense of the community;
the provision of arbitrators to settle trade differences, and the
insurance of members against sickness, etc. They even try, as in old
times, to secure the legal monopoly of a craft and to forbid hawking,
etc. They remind one very much of what I have called the _capitalistic
guilds_ of the Middle Ages, and those of great commerce and "great"
industry, with the sole difference that they are compulsory for all
who carry on the same trade. (See p. 28.) All the authority, in fact,
is in the hands of the masters, and although they are reminded of
their duties towards the workers, the latter are subordinate, can
only present petitions, and are only allowed to decide as to the
administration of benefit funds. It is more than doubtful whether this
reproduction of the most hierarchical form of the ancient guilds has
much chance of spreading at a time when ideas of equality have made
such headway and when the working classes are strong enough to refuse
meekly to submit to the conditions employers lay down. It must also
be remembered that "great" industry, for and by whom this method was
formerly designed, is excepted from Austrian legislation, which forces
it on the "small" trades, to which this renewal of the regulations
of the old statutes seems to be a great hindrance. Imitation of this
system, which is itself only a more or less successful imitation, has
so far not gone farther than Hungary and Germany (the _Innungen_). In
Belgium, Switzerland, and even in France, Christian associations are
to be found on the same model. They always include two groups which
never assimilate; masters and workmen who have separate representation
and pay unequal subscriptions. The principle is always Charity, the
devotion of one class to another, no doubt an honourable sentiment, but
one with which is mingled a protective spirit it seems impossible to
do away with. For Pope Leo XIII. himself, in his Encyclical of May 16,
1891, states that, in civilized society, it is impossible that every
one shall rise to the same level, and that, in consequence, there will
always be rich and poor. "Just as, in the human body, the members, in
spite of their diversity, adapt themselves so marvellously to each
other as to form a perfectly proportioned whole, which may be called
symmetrical, so, in society, the _two classes_ are destined by nature
to unite in harmony, and to maintain together a perfect balance." Life
and experience, however, would seem to prove the opposite. The only
thing to be gained by these attempts to return to a time that has
disappeared for ever is the combination of crafts--a necessity which
seeks to-day, as it has always done, its legitimate satisfaction. But
new methods of production and sale demand new forms of organization
of sellers and producers, and have brought us to the system, evolved
by those concerned, spontaneously, without prejudiced or preconceived
theories, by the direct force of circumstances--the system of _Trade
Unionism_, which has succeeded the guild system as the defender of
trade interests.


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 WORMS (ÉMILE). Histoire commerciale de la Ligue hanséatique. (Paris,
    1864. 8vo.)

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 *ASHLEY (W. J.). An Introduction to English Economic History. 2 vols.
    Part I., The Middle Ages. 1888. 5s. (especially Chap. II.); Part
    II. The End of the Middle Ages. 1893. 10s. 6d. (especially Chaps.

    Surveys, Historic and Economic. 1900. 9s. O.P.

    *The Economic Organisation of England. 1914. 2s. 6d. Philip and
    James Van Artevelde. O.P.

 BRENTANO (L.). _See_ Smith, Toulmin.

 CUNNINGHAM (W.). Growth of English Industry and Commerce. 3 vols.

 GROSS (C.). The Gild Merchant. 2 vols. 1890. 24s.

 KROPOTKIN (PETER). Mutual Aid. 1902. 3s. 6d.

 LAMBERT (Rev. J. M.). Two Thousand Years of Gild Life. 1891. 18s.

 LIPSON (E.). Economic History of England. Vol. I. Black, 1915. 7s. 6d.

 PENTY (A. J.). Old Worlds for New. Allen & Unwin, 1917. 3s. 6d.

 ROGERS (J. E. THOROLD). Six Centuries of Work and Wages. 1890. 10s.
    6d. (remainders 4s. 6d.).

 ROUND (J. H.). The Commune of London. 1899.

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 *UNWIN (GEORGE). The Gilds and Companies of London. 1908. 7s. 6d.

    *Industrial Organisation in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.
    1904. 7s. 6d.

           _Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, _Edinburgh_.


[1] _Panetier_, one charged with the distribution of bread in big

[2] _Bouteillier_, an official for the inspection and superintendence
of wine in a royal household.

[3] A short study and a detailed bibliography of the origin of guilds
will be found in M. Martin-Saint-Léon's _Histoire des corporations de
métier_, book i., 2nd edition. We recommend it to the reader, but do
not ourselves accept all the author's opinions. As, however, he chiefly
gives the German, English, and French sources of information, we add a
list of Italian works, or works concerning Italy, which deal with the
same subject, classifying them according to the theories they adopt.

The theory of the separate creation of each guild is defended by
M. Arrigo Solmi (_Le Assoziazioni in Italia avanti le origini del
Commune_, 1898), but since then the works and criticisms of Messrs.
Robert Davidsohn, Alfred Doren, Hartmann, and Bonolis have deprived
his arguments of all that was strongest and most original in them. M.
Solmi, in an article in the _Rivista Italiana di Sociologia_, ix. 1
(Roma, 1905), entitled "Sulla storia economica d'Italia nel medio evo,"
himself recognized that the persistence of certain ancient institutions
and the division of labour in the great royal or feudal domains appear
to have played an important part in the organization of crafts. M.
Nino Tamassia has specially emphasized, amongst other causes, the part
played by the influence of religious congregations and fraternities.

[4] The origin of the cities having been so different (see J. Flach,
_Les Origines de l'ancienne France_), the causes which predominate in
each must have been equally diverse.

[5] The _Arte dei Fabbri_, for instance, extended over all the suburbs
of Florence.

[6] In France, for example, a long war was fought between the guilds
and those whom they called _chambrelans_.

[7] A similar organization existed at Strasburg. The _Zunft_ (guild)
included several _Antwerke_, see Schmoller, _Die Strassburger Tücher
und Weberzunft Urkunden und Darstellung_.

[8] R. Davidsohn, _Forschungen zur Geschichte von Florenz_.

[9] A. Doren, _Entwicklung und Organisation der Florentiner Zünfte_; G.
Renard, _La Révolution sociale au XIV^e siècle_.

[10] The following may be consulted on this subject: Davidsohn,
_Forschungen zur Geschichte von Florenz_, vol. iii. p. 221;
Martin-Saint-Léon, _Histoire des corporations de métier_, p. 277;
Fagniez, _Documents relatifs à l'histoire de l'industrie et du commerce
en France_, vol. ii. pp. 170, 190, 201.

[11] H. Hauser, _Ouvriers du temps passé_, p. 40.

[12] Martin-Saint-Léon, _Histoire des corporations de métier_, pp.
84, 86, 291; Franklin, _La Vie privée d'autrefois_, p. 78; Fagniez,
_Documents relatifs à l'histoire de l'industrie et du commerce en
France_, vol. i. p. 309.

[13] Hauser, _Ouvriers du temps passé_, pp. 59-76; Boissonnade, _Essai
sur l'organisation en Poitou, etc._, pp. 53, 64, 68; Martín-Saint-Léon,
_Histoire des corporations de métier_, p. 89 ; Fagniez, _Documents
relatifs à l'histoire de l'industrie et du commerce en France_, vol. i.
p. 268.

[14] E. Levasseur, _Histoire des classes ouvrières et de l'industrie
en France avant 1789_, pp. 1, 321; Martin-Saint-Léon, _Histoire des
corporations de métier_, p. 117; Fagniez, _Documents relatifs à
l'histoire de l'industrie et du commerce en France_, vol. i. pp. 231,
245, 282.

[15] Martin-Saint-Léon, _Histoire des corporations de métier_, p. 121.

[16] Hauser, _Ouvriers du temps passé_, p. 62; Fagniez, _Documents
relatifs à l'histoire de l'industrie et du commerce en France_, vol. i.
pp. 36, 220.

[17] Avenel, _Histoire économique de la propriété, des salaires, des
denrées et tous les prix en général_, passim.

[18] Boissonnade, _Essai sur l'organisation du travail en Poitou,
depuis le XI^me siècle jusqu'à la Révolution_, vol. ii. p. 150.

[19] Martin-Saint-Léon, _Histoire des corporations de métier_, pp. 135,
291, 294.

[20] Vanderkindere, _Le Siècle des Artevelde_, p. 132; E. Levasseur,
vol. i. p. 315, note.

[21] Martin-Saint-Léon, _Histoire des corporations de métier_, p. 280.

[22] Fagniez, _Documents relatifs à l'histoire de l'industrie et du
commerce en France_, vol. i. p. 290.

[23] Quotation from Beugnot's edition, p. 429.

[24] _Le Livre des métiers_, xxv. p. 65.

[25] Fagniez, _Documents relatifs à l'histoire de l'industrie et du
commerce en France_, vol. i. pp. 1, 245; E. Levasseur, _Histoire des
classes ouvrières et de l'industrie en France avant 1789_, vol. i. p.

[26] Consult the following for information concerning the legal and
economic status of women: Gaston Richard, _Les Femmes dans l'histoire_,
p. 282; Hauser, _Ouvriers du temps passé_, pp. 142-160; Fagniez,
_Documents relatifs à l'histoire de l'industrie et du commerce en
France_, vol. i. pp. 259-261, 277, 310, vol. ii. p. 204.

[27] Consult W. J. Ashley's _Economic History_, concerning _guildae_
and _hanses_. A bibliography will be found in vol. i. See also Émile

[28] _Statutes of the Arte di Calimala_ (book ii. art. 23).

[29] For information on this subject consult A. Doren and Davidsohn for
Florence; Pirenne for Flanders; Schmoller and Lamprecht for Germany.

[30] It is certain that in Great States the statutes of the different
towns were connected, and it is probable that they were so in the
period preceding the formation of Great States.

[31] Martin-Saint-Léon, _Histoire des corporations de métier_, pp. 266
and 290; Rodocanachi, _Les Corporations ouvrières à Rome depuis la
chute de l'Empire romain_, p. lix.

[32] Fagniez, _Documents relatifs à l'histoire de l'industrie et du
commerce en France_, vol. ii. p. 189.

[33] _Statutes of the Calimala_, bk. ii. art. 35 and 44.

[34] Rodocanachi, _Les Corporations ouvrières à Rome depuis la chute de
l'Empire Romain_.

[35] Fagniez, _Documents relatifs à l'histoire de l'industrie et du
commerce en France_, vol. ii. p. 59.

[36] Justin Godart, _L'Ouvrier en soie_, p. 88, note.

[37] Rodocanachi, p. xcii.

[38] Brisson, _Histoire du travail et des travailleurs_, p. 23.

[39] Martin-Saint-Léon, _Histoire des corporations de métier_, p. 275.

[40] Fagniez, _Documents relatifs à l'histoire de l'industrie et du
commerce en France_, vol. i. pp. 1, 274.

[41] _Statuts de Calimala._

[42] La Sorsa, _Gli statuti degli orefici e sellai fiorentini al
principio del secolo xiv._

[43] Fagniez, _Documents relatifs à l'histoire de l'industrie et du
commerce en France_, vol. ii. pp. 71, 149.

[44] Brisson, _Histoire du travail et des travailleurs_, p. 22.

[45] Franklin, _La Vie privée d'autrefois_, p. 25.

[46] Georges Renard, _Les Banquiers florentins en France au XIII^me

[47] Paul Lacroix, _Moeurs, usages et costumes du moyen âge et à
l'époque de la Renaissance_, pp. 234 and 430.

[48] _Statutes of the Calimala_, bk. iii. art. 20-22.

[49] Fagniez, _Documents relatifs à l'histoire de l'industrie et du
commerce en France_, pp. 11, 190-200.

[50] Levasseur, _Histoire des classes ouvrières et de l'industrie en
France avant 1789_, vol. i. p. 335.

[51] Brisson, _Histoire du travail et des travailleurs_, p. 19;
Boissonnade, _Essai sur l'organisation de travail en Poitou_, vol. i.
p. 287.

[52] Martin-Saint-Léon, _Histoire des corporations de métier_, pp.

[53] Paul Lacroix, _Moeurs, usages et costumes au moyen âge et à
l'époque de la Renaissance_, p. 317.

[54] Fagniez, _Documents relatifs à l'histoire de l'industrie et du
commerce en France_, vol. i. p. 113.

[55] Franklin, _La Vie privée d'autrefois_, vol. i. pp. 66-67;
Rodocanachi, _Les Corporations ouvrières à Rome_, p. lxxxviii.

[56] A. Doren, _Entwicklung und Organisation der Florentiner Zünfte_.

[57] Rodocanachi, _Les Corporations ouvrières à Rome depuis la chute de
l'Empire romain_, p. cxii.

[58] Franklin, _La Vie privée d'autrefois_, p. 67.

[59] _Statutes of the Arte dei medici, speziali e merciai_.

[60] _Statutes of the Arte di Calimala_.

[61] Charles Dejob, _Le Marchand de vin dans les vieilles communes de
l'Italie_, p. 14.

[62] See the statutes of the _Arte di Calimala_, and of the _Arte di
Por Santa Maria_.

[63] E. Levasseur, _Histoire des classes ouvrières et de l'industrie en
France avant 1789_, vol. i. pp. 293-298.

[64] Fagniez, _Documents relatifs à l'histoire de l'industrie et du
commerce en France_, vol. i. p. 146.

[65] Martin-Saint-Léon, _Histoire des corporations de métier_, pp. 273,

[66] Fagniez, _Documents relatifs à l'histoire de l'industrie et du
commerce en France_, vol. i. pp. 40, 52, 93.

[67] _Ibid._

[68] Fagniez, _Documents relatifs à l'histoire de l'industrie et du
commerce en France_, vol. i. pp. 89, 112.

[69] Consult Rodocanachi and Boissonnade on this subject.

[70] Rodocanachi, _Les Corporations ouvrières à Rome depuis la chute de
l'Empire Romain_, p. xxv.

[71] Levasseur, _Histoire des classes ouvrières et de l'industrie en
France avant 1789_, vol. i. pp. 561.

[72] Martin-Saint-Léon, _Histoire des corporations de métier_, p. 110.

[73] Boissonnade, _Essai sur l'organisation du travail en Poitou_,
etc., vol. ii. p. 276; Bourgeois, _Les Métiers de Blois_, passim.

[74] Fagniez, _Documents relatifs à l'histoire de l'industrie et du
commerce en France_, vol. i. pp. 145, 250.

[75] Boissonnade, vol. ii. p. 276.

[76] Paul Lacroix, _Moeurs, usages, et costumes au moyen âge et à
l'époque de la Renaissance_, p. 442.

[77] Boissonnade, _Essai sur l'organisation en Poitou_, etc., vol. ii.
p. 293.

[78] Levasseur, _Histoire des classes ouvrières et de l'industrie
en France avant 1789_, vol. i. p. 343; Boissonnade, _Essai sur
l'organisation en Poitou_, etc., vol. i. p. 172.

[79] Franklin, _La Vie privée d'autrefois. La cuisine_, p. 230.

[80] The word as here used must not be confused with its meaning in
connection with the Florentine Guilds, see p. 8.

[81] The _number_ of members composing a guild also contributed to its
social status; but this was a factor of very much less importance.

[82] Ribot, _Essai sur l'imagination créatrice_, p. 234; Tarde,
_Psychologie économique_, bk. i. chap. v. §§ iv. v.

[83] A. Doren, _Studien aus der florentiner Wirthschaftgeschichte_.

[84] Levasseur, _Histoire des classes ouvrières_, etc., vol. i. p. 343.

[85] Perrens, _Histoire de Florence_, vol. vi. chap. v.

[86] The inhabitants of Perpignan were classed in three _mains_ (major,
middle, and minor). See Drapé.

[87] Ach. Luchaire, _Les Communes françaises à l'époque des capétiens
directs_, pp. 207-215.

[88] Georges Renard, _Revue économique internationale_, Jan. 1909,
article entitled "La révolution sociale au XIV^e siècle."

[89] Davidsohn, _Forschungen zur Geschichte von Florenz_, vol. iii.

[90] _Livre des métiers_, p. 1.

[91] Fagniez, _Documents relatifs à l'histoire de l'industrie et du
commerce en France_, vol. i. p. 75.

[92] Franklin, _La Vie privée d'autrefois, comment on devenait patron_,
p. 70; Martin-Saint-Léon, _Histoire des corporations de métier_, p. 275.

[93] Boissonnade, _Essai sur l'organisation du travail en Poitou_,
etc., vol. ii. p. 250.

[94] Fagniez, vol. i. p. 115.

[95] Karl Bücher, _Études d'histoire et d'économie politique_, passim.

[96] Macaulay, _History of England_ (Everyman), vol. i. p. 323.

[97] Germain-Martin, _La Grande Industrie sous le règne de Louis XIV_,
p. 232.

[98] E. Levasseur, _Histoire des classes ouvrières_, etc., vol. i. p.

[99] Thomas More, _Utopia_.

[100] Ashley.

[101] André Liesse, _Le Travail_.

[102] Beatrice and Sidney Webb, _History of Trade Unionism_, p. 41.

[103] Macaulay, _History of England_ (Everyman), vol. i. p. 292.

[104] Germain-Martin, _La Grande Industrie sous le règne de Louis XV_.

[105] Beatrice and Sidney Webb, _History of Trade Unionism_, p. 13.

[106] Page 24. Their position was the same in the _Arte della seta_.

[107] Macaulay, _History of England_ (Everyman), vol. i. p. 323, note.

[108] Hauser, _Ouvriers du temps passé_, chap. x.

[109] Mantoux, _La Révolution industrielle au XVIII^me siècle_, p. 55.
[The song is quoted in full in J. Burnley's _Wool and Wool-combing_,
pp. 161 ff.--EDITOR.]

[110] Mantoux, _La Révolution industrielle au XVIII^me siècle_.

[111] See Levasseur, _Histoire des classes ouvrières_, etc., chap.
vi.; Hauser, _Les Compagnonnages d'arts et métiers_, etc., p. 8 and
_passim_; Martin-Saint-Léon, _Le Compagnonnage_.

[112] Hauser, _Les Compagnonnage d'arts et métiers à Dijon au XVII^me
et XVIII^me siècles_, p. 168.

[113] Du Bellay; see also Grévin, prologue to _La Trésorière_.

[114] Jules Zeller, _Histoire d'Allemagne_.

[115] Boissonnade, _Essai sur l'organisation du travail en Poitou_,
vol. ii. pp. 354-357.

[116] Germain-Martin.

[117] Ashley.

[118] Fagniez, _Corporations et syndicats_, p. 23.

[119] Quoted by Michelet, _Histoire de France_, vol. v. p. 312.

[120] Levasseur, vol. ii. p. 138.

[121] J. Bodin, _De la République_, bk. iii. chap. viii.

[122] See Boissonnade, vol. ii. pp. 360, 465; Bourgeois, vol. ii.
p. 243. The master saddlers of Blois (1593) asked the king to grant
them statutes "similar to those of Tours and other free towns of this

[123] They even formed guilds, as, for instance, the dressmakers'
guild, which owed its existence to Colbert.

[124] Ashley, _Economic History_, vol. ii. p. 13.

[125] Mantoux, _La Révolution industrielle au XVIII^me siècle_, p. 65.

[126] _Cantini, Legislazione toscana_, x. chap. xxix. and xxx.

[127] Misul, _Le Arti Fiorentini_, passim.

[128] Boissonnade, _Essai sur l'organisation du travail en Poitou,
depuis le XI^me siècle jusqu'à la Révolution_, vol. ii. p. 79.

[129] Martin-Saint-Léon, _Histoire des corporations de métier_, p. 348.

[130] Pigeonneau, _Histoire du Commerce de la France_, vol. i. p. 180.

[131] Boissonnade, _Essai sur l'organisation du travail en Poitou,
depuis le XI^me siècle jusqu'à la Révolution_, vol. ii. p. 123.

[132] Martin-Saint-Léon, _Histoire des corporations de métier_, p. 358.

[133] "Poids de marc"; _marc_, ancient weight of eight ounces

[134] Mantoux, _La Révolution industrielle au XVIII^me siècle_, p. 67.

[135] Boissonnade, vol. ii. p. 430.

[136] Boissonnade, _Essai sur l'organisation du travail en Poitou_,
etc., vol. ii. pp. 120, 488.

[137] W. J. Ashley.

[138] Martin-Saint-Léon, _Histoire des corporations de métier_, p. 312.

[139] Mantoux, _La Révolution industrielle au XVIII^me siècle_, pp.

[140] Montesquieu, bk. xxiii. chap. xv.

[141] Martin-Saint-Léon, _Histoire des corporations de métier_, p. 523.

[142] Mantoux, _La Révolution industrielle au XVIII^me siècle_, pp.
472, 487.

[143] Beatrice and Sidney Webb, _History of Trade Unionism_, p. 44.

[144] For the whole of the preceding consult Martin-Saint-Léon,
_Histoire des corporations de métier_, pp. 511, 516; Hayem, _Domaines
respectifs de l'association et de la société_, p. 23; Jaurès, _La
Constituante_, pp. 600-630.

[145] Misul, _Le Arti Fiorentine; La Camera di Commerzio_.

[146] E. Vandervelde, _Enquéte sur les associations professionnelles
d'artisans et ouvriers en Belgique_, vol. i.

[147] J. Paul-Boncour in _Le Fédéralisme économique_, p. 14, gives a
list of the guilds which survive in France.

[148] On this subject see Martin-Saint-Léon, _Histoire des corporations
de métier_, bk. vii.; and Paul Louis, _Histoire du mouvement syndical
en France_, p. 67.

[149] Martin-Saint-Léon, _Histoire des corporations de métier_, bk.
vii. chap. iii., "The Guilds of the Future."

[150] Hubert-Valleroux, Les _Associations ouvrières et les associations
patronales_, p. 130; Altmann, _Le Régime corporatif des métiers en
Autriche et en Allemagne au XIX^me siècle_.

    Transcriber's Note:

    Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as

    Italic text has been marked with _underscores_.
    Letters preceded by a ^caret appeared as superscripts to the end of
    the word.
    OE ligatures have been expanded.

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