Guilds and Growth

[T]he [tailors’ guild] ordinance, though it had the countenance of a charter, was against the common law, because it was against the liberty of the subject; for every subject, by the law, has freedom and liberty to put his cloth to be dressed by what clothworker he pleases, and cannot be restrained to certain persons, for that in effect would be a monopoly; and therefore such an ordinance, by colour of a charter, or any grant by charter to such effect, would be void . . . A rule of such nature as to bring all trade or traffic into the hands of one company, or one person, and to exclude all others, is illegal.

Common law judgment against the Merchant
Taylors’ guild, London, 1598

. . . no members of those guilds, under what pretext soever, can be countenanced or indulged in their monopoly, or charter, but by the excluding of all other inhabitants, and consequently to the hindrance of their country’s prosperity. For how much soever those members sell their pains or commodities dearer than if that trade or occupation was open or free, all the other better inhabitants . . . must bear that loss.

Pieter de la Court, The True Interest and
Political Maxims of the Republic of Holland, 1669

How did the strength of guilds affect the vigour of the economy? So far, this book has focussed on distilling the characteristics European guilds shared: their common stance towards political action, entry barriers, market manipulation, women’s work, product quality, skilled training, and technological innovation. But guilds also differed across societies and time-periods. They got privileges in different places at different times between c. 1000 and c. 1500, and they diverged even more between c. 1500 and c. 1870, as they were reinforced, challenged, or abolished by the action, deliberate or incidental, of other components of the diversifying economy and institutions of early modern Europe. Even though most guilds tried to do the same basic things, their success varied with their strength in different societies. Over the same period, between c. 1100 and c. 1870, the performance of different European economies also diverged.1 What was the relationship between the strength of guilds in a society and the vitality of its economy?

The first challenge is determining how to measure guild strength. Scholars have experimented with various definitions. One focuses on numbers, and assumes that guilds were strong if there were a lot of them.2 A second approach focuses on class struggle, and argues that guilds of craftsmen (“workers”) were strong where guilds of merchants (“capitalists”) were weak.3 But these definitions are problematic. As we shall see, some societies had lots of guilds, but ones that were not very effective at achieving their members’ aims. Some societies had strong guilds of merchants, but ones that coexisted with strong guilds of craftsmen. The counting and class-struggle approaches also raise deeper problems. Both focus on just one criterion of “guild strength”. But as earlier chapters have shown, guilds did diverse things and interacted with multiple institutions. This suggests that guild strength should also be defined in a multi-dimensional way.

So this chapter explores guild strength using a number of different criteria, shown in Table 9.1. By exploring these multiple indicators, it seeks to build up an all-round picture of the times and places in which guilds were (and were not) able to take effective action in their members’ economic interests—arguably the most pertinent definition of guild strength. These findings on guild strength are then placed alongside alternative estimates of economic performance in different European societies at different periods.


An early approach to assessing guild strength, as already mentioned, was to count guilds. According to this view, a large absolute number of guilds in a particular society, an expanding number of guilds, or a high density of guilds relative to the number of inhabitants, indicated that guilds were strong.4

TABLE 9.1: Criteria for Assessing the Strength of Guilds



Guild numbers

Guilds exist in large absolute numbers


New guilds continue to be established to a late date


Guilds are numerous on a per capita basis


Merchants are weak


Merchant guilds are weak

Internal cohesion

Guilds are occupationally homogeneous


Guilds hold frequent assemblies


Guild assemblies have high attendance rates

State institutions

Guilds enjoy political representation at level of state


Guilds enjoy support from crown


Guilds enjoy enforcement of their privileges by officials and legal system


Guilds have not been legally abolished by state action

Urban institutions

Guilds enjoy political representation in town government


Guilds enjoy enforcement of their privileges by town officials


Few guild-free towns exist


Few towns exist where mainstream crafts or trades are non-guilded


Guilded towns are few, far apart, or otherwise not competitive with one another

Town-country relations

Guilded towns can regulate countryside

Rural institutions

Urban guilds can compel rural producers to join them


Regional (rural-urban) guilds exist


Rural guilds exist


Guilds enjoy support from seigneurial institutions

Jurisdictional enclaves

Jurisdictional enclaves free of guilds are rare

So far, guild censuses have been compiled for five larger European territories: Italy, the Southern Netherlands (roughly modern Belgium and Luxembourg), the Northern Netherlands (roughly the modern Netherlands), Lower Austria with Vienna (the most populous region of Austria), and Hungary. Figure 9.1 shows the number of new guilds established (or new guild charters issued) in these five territories, from the first guilds formed in Italy and the Southern Netherlands in the early twelfth century to the last ones set up in Hungary in the later nineteenth.


FIGURE 9.1. Number of New Guilds Established in Various European Societies, 1100–1883

Source: See text.

Very approximately, the chronology of guild formation corresponds to what is known of the growth of the secondary and tertiary sectors in these societies. Italy and the Southern Netherlands were the first areas of Europe where crafts and commerce expanded after c. 1100; they also show their greatest spate of guild formations in the period from 1100 to 1400.5 The Northern Netherlands had its phase of expansion later, with the largest number of guild formations alongside the largest number of new crafts and trades in the period from 1400 to the end of the Dutch Golden Age around 1670.6 Lower Austria, like most other parts of central Europe, saw both guild numbers and crafts expand much later, with guild charters starting around 1400 and appearing in their largest numbers in the eighteenth century.7 Hungary only began establishing guilds in the period after 1600, but despite being a primarily agricultural economy that was subject to the “second serfdom” until the mid-nineteenth century, it saw the creation of large numbers of guilds in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, and only experienced their gradual abolition between 1859 and 1872.8


FIGURE 9.2. Number of Inhabitants per Guild in Various European Societies, 1300–1784

Source: See text.

In rough outline, therefore, the largest numbers of guilds were established in each society at the time when it was becoming more urban and developing more secondary- and tertiary-sector activities. This approximate congruence in timing, however, does not imply anything about causation. Guilds could have caused economic growth, they could have been established to extract rents from it, or both guilds and growth could have been caused by underlying factors.

Figure 9.2 shows a second indicator sometimes used in this literature, the number of inhabitants per guild. This has been calculated for the Italian peninsula and both parts of the Northern Netherlands, but sadly not for Hungary or Austria. Furthermore, this statistic does not measure the density of guilds per inhabitant across the entire society or even in all urban centres, but just in those towns that had guilds and were included in that study. Regrettably, the criteria for inclusion differed across the various studies that counted guilds. The Italian study included cities that had more than 10,000 inhabitants in at least three of six benchmark years (1300, 1400, 1500, 1600, 1700, and 1800).9 The study of the Northern and Southern Netherlands, by contrast, included towns that had over 2,500 inhabitants in 1784, and thus set the bar much lower.10

Figure 9.2 shows fewer inhabitants per guild and thus greater guild density in the two parts of the Netherlands than in Italy. However, this may simply result from the inclusion of many more medium-sized towns for the Netherlands than for Italy. This difference in research design is particularly serious, given that a statistical analysis of the same Italian database by Klaus Desmet and Stephen Parente found that the probability of having guilds was significantly higher in medium-sized than large towns.11

Bearing in mind these data problems, what does Figure 9.2 tell us? In the small towns of the Netherlands, guild density was higher (at below 1,000 people per guild) than in the large cities of Italy (at 2,000 to 6,000). Guild density was virtually identical in the Northern and the Southern Netherlands, but in Italy showed huge regional variation, from 2,000 in the north and centre to 6,000 in the south. Across time, guild density did not change greatly in the small Netherlandish towns, while in the large Italian cities it increased between the medieval and the early modern period.

The compilers of several of these pioneering studies of guild numbers take them to imply that guilds were strong and beneficial. The authors of the Netherlands compilation interpret their numbers as demonstrating that guilds were powerful and favoured growth: “. . . during the seventeenth century, that is, in the period of the Dutch Republic’s very strong economic expansion, more guilds were established than ever before. . . . This suggests that the corporate system was still very much in development, and also that such development was perfectly compatible with a dynamic and growing economy.”12 The author of the Italy study, too, interprets guild numbers as indicating that guilds were both strong and beneficial: Italian guilds proliferated between 1220 and 1760, at the same time as the economy was growing, they were “more numerous in the prosperous cities of the north”, and they were set up “in the cornerstones of urban economies”.13

Unsurprisingly, however, the authors of the guild figures for Hungary and Lower Austria do not interpret guild numbers in the same spirit.14 Hungary and Lower Austria saw much larger numbers of new guilds established between 1600 and the later nineteenth century than Italy or the Low Countries, yet remained industrial backwaters characterized by very slow economic growth.15 High and growing guild numbers could also be associated with low per capita GDP and poor economic performance.

This arises from a basic problem with using the number of guilds to infer their economic effects. Guild numbers merely show that a certain quantity of guilds were present in a particular time and place. They do not convey information about what these guilds sought to do, how successful they were in achieving it, or how their actions affected the economy. During the Dutch Golden Age (c. 1560–1670), as other scholars have pointed out, Dutch guilds proliferated, but they did so mainly in local rather than export industries, did not have political powers, and were weak or absent in many important industrial agglomerations and sectors.16 Despite their numbers, Dutch guilds appeared so feeble compared to German and Austrian ones that the cameralist Johann Joachim Becher, who lived in Haarlem for three years in the 1670s, marvelled—inaccurately—that “the Hollanders have got rid of all guilds, and permitted competition, so that everyone is free to earn a living as he can”.17 The general lesson is that simply looking at the number of guilds in a particular place at a particular time cannot tell us what they did and thus how strong they were.

Just as numbers did not mean guilds were strong, numbers did not mean guilds were beneficial. In the Northern and Southern Netherlands, the number of guilds increased in the medieval period at the same time as cities were expanding, and co-existed with the peak of prosperity of Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, and Amsterdam. However, as De Munck, Lourens and Lucassen point out, these same guilds “also played a role in the inevitable periods of decline later, largely by protecting the interests of their members”.18 For Italy, Mocarelli interprets the continual rise in guild numbers between c. 1220 and c. 1800 and their greater numbers in rich northern than in poor southern cities as demonstrating that guilds were good for economic growth.19 However, Desmet and Parente analyze the same data and find an inverted-U relationship between guild presence and town size, which they ascribe to guilds’ tendency to block innovations that increased productivity. Very small towns, they argue, had markets too small to generate profits sufficient to cover the fixed costs of adopting innovations, so guilds did not have to form in such places to lobby against disruptive inventions. Very large cities, they contend, had markets so large that the profits from innovations were substantial enough to cover the costs of defeating and disbanding existing guilds. Only in medium-sized towns, they conclude, were markets and potential profits large enough to cover the costs of adopting innovations and thus motivating the formation of guilds to block them, but too small to underwrite political action to abolish such guilds.20

Thus identical data on guild numbers sustain diametrically opposed conclusions about the relationship between guilds and economic growth. This means that we have to consider other measures of guild strength, which focus not just on the presence of guilds but on what they were able to do.


The “class struggle” approach to guilds tries to do this, by assuming an inverse relationship between the strength of guilds and the strength of merchants.21 Adopting the assumption that craftsmen were “workers” and merchants were “capitalists”, this approach argues that where merchants were strong, guilds were weak.

But this idea clashes with the evidence. For one thing, craft guilds were not organizations of “workers”. The members of craft guilds owned their own workshops and equipment, making them “capitalists” in the sense that they owned the means of production. The members of craft guilds were also employers of the industrial workforce, as Chapter 4 showed, often deploying guild regulations to discipline and coerce workers.22 In fact, neither “worker” nor “capitalist” is the appropriate term for the members of craft guilds; instead, they were typically owners of small and medium-sized businesses.23

One might argue that although the members of craft guilds were business owners and employers, they still differed from merchants because they did not specialize in trade. If one further assumes that industry and trade had fundamentally opposed interests, then perhaps there was an inverse relationship between the strength of guilds and the strength of merchants?

But this too is problematic. In practice, the dividing line between craftsman and merchant was fluid. Most craft guilds included some masters who specialized more in selling wares and others who specialized more in making them. Other guilds were “sectoral” organizations combining both craftsmen and merchants working in the same branch. This fluidity between industrial and commercial activities undermines the assumption that merchant weakness can be used as an indicator of guild strength.

Even when craftsmen and merchants formed separate guilds, strong merchant guilds did not mean weak craft guilds, or vice versa. A craft guild could have extensive privileges over its occupation, enforce them effectively, and yet co-exist with a merchant guild that also had extensive privileges over its occupation, which it also enforced effectively. In the Low Countries, according to Hugo Soly, “Merchants did not ordinarily oppose setting up formal craft guilds, provided that these organizations served their purposes. Restricting commercial competition was a constant concern of all those who traded export goods . . .”.24 In Scotland, although guilds of merchants and craftsmen struggled over demarcations between their respective entitlements, both worked together in town councils and parliaments to enforce guild privileges against non-guilded competitors.25 In most German textile industries, both craftsmen and merchants possessed strong guild organizations, which co-existed rather than exterminating one another.26 In Austria, powerful guilds of scythe-smiths coexisted with powerful associations of scythe-merchants, each corporate body effectively enforcing its own privileges.27 In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Bulgaria, textile guilds included merchants alongside craftsmen and “there were hardly any conflicts with the rest of the guild members; rather, one can speak of a convergence of the interests of the two groups”.28 In Portugal as late as the 1820s, the privileges of merchant-manufacturers and those of craft guilds sustained one another in “a real functional logic”.29

This makes sense. Two well-organized interest groups can readily collude to amass a pool of cartel rents by obtaining legal privileges, even if they then struggle over how to share out the loot. Merchant weakness is therefore a poor indicator of guild strength.


A more informative measure of guild strength is internal cohesiveness. A social network is more likely to generate social capital if it fosters multiplex internal links, giving members multiple ways of putting pressure on each other not to deviate from shared norms. A cartel, likewise, is more likely to survive and flourish if it is cohesive enough to suppress free-riding members and punish interlopers. How, then, can we assess the internal cohesiveness of guilds?

Occupational Homogeneity

One important indicator of guild cohesiveness was occupational homogeneity. As one fifteenth-century Florentine fraternity put it, “mixture can bring discord”.30 Guilds tried to minimize discord by limiting mixture. As shown in the 88 observations from the qualitative database analyzed in Chapter 3, most guilds excluded any applicant who already practised another guilded occupation or who held membership in another guild. Guilds in the vast majority of medieval and early modern European societies banned occupational heterogeneity on principle. They required that a man practise no more than one guilded occupation, be a member of a single guild, and not change either guild or occupation throughout his life. This fostered cohesiveness in two ways, by limiting entry and by stifling internal diversity of interests.

In a few European societies, guilds tolerated deviations from this norm, diluting the occupational homogeneity that created internal cohesion. In some, multiple guild memberships were permitted, as in some towns in the Southern Netherlands where up to 40 per cent of masters held membership in a second guild.31 In others, guilds united different occupations, as in late medieval Flanders and Scotland where many towns either had a single guild combining merchants, retailers, and craftsmen or a handful of guilds each incorporating several crafts.32 In still other societies, such as Italy, guilds often sold “part-memberships” to outsiders whose primary membership was in another guild.33

Italy also manifested a much more systematic deviation from the normal occupational homogeneity of guilds, by having a large number of “umbrella” guilds that sheltered highly disparate occupations.34 In early modern Rome, occupational homogeneity was rare enough that the candlemakers’ guild, whose masters made only candles, was described as “different from other trades of Rome”.35 Many great Italian cities also had “sectoral” guilds combining craftsmen and merchants involved in all aspects of the production and sale of products made of a particular fibre such as silk or wool.36 This occupational heterogeneity sometimes reduced internal cohesiveness sufficiently to dilute opposition to disruptive innovations, as we saw in Chapter 8.37 In France, most guilds were occupationally homogeneous, but the successful silk industry of Lyon had a sectoral guild combining merchants and different craft operations, giving rise to a heterogeneity of interests that extorted compromises from all and fostered unusual openness to innovation.38

Guilds in London displayed perhaps the most extreme occupational heterogeneity in Europe. The custom of London, as we saw in Chapter 3, entitled any “freeman” (citizen) to exercise any occupation, not just the one to which he had been apprenticed, while still remaining a member of the same guild.39 In 1335, the London burrellers “claimed the right as freemen of the city to carry on any trade or mystery”, a claim confirmed by the city authorities in the teeth of objections from other textile guilds.40 By the 1430s, many members of the London tailors’ guild were operating as drapers, mercers, and merchants—without being members of those guilds.41 By 1500, most London guilds had members practising multiple occupations, and most London occupations had practitioners spread across multiple guilds.42 This occupational heterogeneity intensified during the sixteenth century and feeble attempts to “reform” it failed completely.43 Contemporaries recognized that heterogeneity reduced economic cohesion, as in 1636 when girdler members of the Girdlers’ Company complained “that for the most part the Maister and Wardens are gentlemen of other trades and therefore not experienced in the aforesaid Arte and are many times out of town to whom accesse cannot be had for reforming of abuses when and as need shall require”. In the same vein, members of the Founders’ Company complained that the guild’s officials were “not capable of judging of any thing relating to the Trade . . . being men of other callings”.44

But all these deviations from occupational homogeneity were highly exceptional. As we saw in Chapter 3, the predominant pattern in Europe was for a guild to comprise practitioners of a single occupation. In Germany, even in cities such as Augsburg where occupationally mixed guilds existed, the different occupations formed separate sub-guilds or trades with their own regulations, guildhalls, coffers, and registers.45 In the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation more broadly, the norm of one occupation per guild was maintained in such extreme form that some guilds went so far as to conceal the fact that they combined men of adjacent occupations for fear of ostracism from other German guilds that applied the norm more strictly.46 Such homogeneity in turn increased a guild’s incentive and capacity to undertake unified action to suppress internal deviation and external competition. Conversely, in the Southern Netherlands, England, Scotland, and Italy, guilds were less able to organize collective action because they were often less homogeneous. France was an intermediate case. Most French towns maintained the norm of occupational homogeneity inside guilds, but there were important anomalies, such as Lyon, which had a dominant sectoral guild in silkworking, its most dynamic industry.

Guild Assemblies

Guild assemblies acted as a second source of internal cohesion. Face-to-face meetings reduced transaction costs among members, making it easier to organize collective action. In York, for instance, the customs of the city recorded in 1530 ordered guilds to hold assemblies where members were to “enter communication and counsel together of such things as they think best to be used within their occupation both to the laud and praise of God and profit for themselves”.47 Adam Smith took a more saturnine view of guild sociability in 1776 when he observed that “[p]eople of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”48

Guild assemblies typically involved a standard set of activities that reinforced shared norms, conveyed information, imposed sanctions against deviations, and organized collective action. The meeting normally began with an oral reading of the guild’s ordinance, so that no member could claim ignorance of guild norms.49 The assembly also typically entailed inviting, hearing, and judging accusations of deviations from these norms.50 Punishment of offences was often delayed until the next assembly, so the entire membership could see justice done.51 Another regular feature was an oral canvass, in which each guild master was asked in turn whether he had any violation to report or suggestion to make for future litigation or lobbying.52 The guild assembly thus provided a mechanism by which members recollected existing regulations, learned of new ones, reported violations, observed collective punishment, and planned collective action.

One indicator of a guild’s strength is whether it could hold assemblies at all. In Leicester in 1260, for instance, the town sought to prevent the fullers from breaking away from the merchants and forming an independent guild by making them swear to refrain from separate meetings.53 In 1348, the authorities in Valencia forbade guild assemblies without government consent, since “unauthorized meetings had been followed by grave consequences”.54 In Nuremberg after the revolution of 1349, the authorities weakened craft guilds by banning banquets, religious observances, promenading, and singing; guild assemblies were tolerated, but only under strict supervision.55 In Toledo in the 1550s, the town council tried to deny the silk guild its own meeting house so as to prevent it from creating a “league” or “monopoly”.56 In 1796, when the Spanish crown abolished silk-twisters’ guilds, members of that occupation were prohibited from holding assemblies.57 Such official measures reflected the recognition that assemblies fostered guild strength and cohesion.

Given that a guild was able to hold assemblies at all, an important indicator of its strength was how frequently it did so, as shown by the actions of the Venetian government in the 1260s, when it sought to constrain guilds’ powers by limiting them to two assemblies annually.58 The qualitative guilds database contains 50 observations of European guilds whose frequency of assemblies is known. Unfortunately, as Table 9.2 shows, the sample is quite narrow. Although it spans the 539 years from 1317 and 1856, the medieval period accounts for only 4 per cent of observations, significantly lower than its share of the overall guilds database.59 Moreover, the sample derives from only four societies: Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Table 9.2 thus reflects only the state of affairs in a narrow range of guilds, almost certainly those that took their assemblies seriously enough to record them meticulously.

TABLE 9.2: Number of Months between Guild Assemblies, Various European Societies, 1317–1856



Early modern

Whole period

Whole period

Whole period





no. obs.























Total mean






Total no. obs.






Total %






Note: Observations of the form “6 to 7” have been averaged to 6.5. “mean” = mean no. months between assemblies.

Source: Quantitative guilds database: 50 observations of the frequency of guild assemblies.

Guilds in this sample held assemblies on average every six months. On the high-frequency end of the spectrum were Italian guilds which met on average every three months; on the less frequent, the Austrian guilds held assemblies on average every eight months. These guilds from early modern Italy and central Europe, therefore, were in a position to foster considerable internal cohesion, since their members assembled face-to-face twice every year.

Austrian guilds were certainly on the cohesive end of the European spectrum, as emerges vividly from Thomas Buchner’s systematic comparison of guilds in Vienna and Amsterdam. In early modern Vienna, guilds assembled their entire membership at least four times a year at “Quatember” meetings where new masters were admitted, apprentices registered, religious services held, strategy and tactics discussed, and the resulting decisions written down in collective “resolutions”. The assembly systematically canvassed ordinary members for their views and elected sub-committees that sedulously monitored the guild officers and corporate finances. The assembly systematically incorporated the views of ordinary guild members into the guild’s petitions and lobbying campaigns. In early modern Amsterdam, by contrast, guilds completely lacked such mechanisms for fostering internal cohesion. Guilds seldom held regular assemblies, elected sub-committees to supervise guild finances, or set up procedures for ordinary members to monitor the guild officers. The guild elite monopolized the formulation of petitions, and ordinary masters had virtually no input. The result was a divergence of interests and internal conflict between ordinary members and the oligarchy, reducing cohesion and enfeebling the guild.60

There were thus wide differences in the frequency and effectiveness of assemblies across different guild systems. Austrian, German, Italian, and Swiss guilds held frequent assemblies, fostering internal cohesion. In the Northern Netherlands, by contrast, guilds apparently lacked such mechanisms for buttressing their ability to mobilize members internally and represent collective interests externally.

Attendance at Guild Assemblies

Wide differences also emerge in the case of another indicator of guild cohesion, the percentage of members attending assemblies. Guilds regarded poor attendance as a symptom of weakness. In 1438, for instance, the Bristol cordwainers’ guild lamented that members were absenting themselves from assemblies, which crippled the officers’ efforts to mobilize the craft to collective action.61 To prevent such deficits in cohesion, many guilds mandated compulsory attendance at assemblies, which they enforced by sending officers to remind members, physically fetching them on the day itself, and imposing penalties on absentees.62

Attendance rates nonetheless varied widely. Table 9.3 shows 16 observations of European guilds that recorded attendance at their assemblies. The sample spans three and a half centuries, from 1409 to 1759, but derives from towns in only three societies, England, Germany, and Italy. Four of the observations for provincial England were of guilds that were mainly religious, although their activities may have been partly economic. The other guilds comprised practitioners of locally oriented crafts (coopers, fishmongers, tinkers), local commerce (mercers), and export-oriented proto-industry (worsted-weavers).

As Table 9.3 shows, attendance at assemblies differed across guilds. On the “strong” end of the spectrum were the London coopers in the 1560s, the Alzey tinkers in the 1660s, and the Wildberg worsted-weavers from 1700 to 1760, where 80 to 100 per cent of the mastership attended assemblies. The fraternity of Our Lady’s Nativity in the Norfolk town of Wymondham showed the same pattern, with attendance of 84 per cent in 1534.

Table 9.3: Attendance at Guild Assemblies, Various European Societies, 1409–1759

Locality rate (%)








coopers (householders)





coopers (householders)





coopers (journeymen)





coopers (journeymen)





fishmongers (yeomanry)





guild of the Holy Cross





guild of the Holy Cross





guild of the Holy Cross


Wymondham, Norfolk



fraternity of Our Lady’s Nativity


Wildberg district





Wildberg district





Wildberg district





Wildberg district





Wildberg district





Alzey district







early 17th c.



Notes and Sources: aArcher 1991, 115: number paying dues as % of “householder” members. bArcher 1991, 115: number paying dues as % of “journeyman” members. cArcher 1991, 115: number paying dues as % of “yeomanry” members. dRosser 2015, 141: number attending assembly as % of all members. eOgilvie 1997, 322–3: number attending assembly as % of those paying compulsory dues (includes male masters plus practising widows). f Göttmann 1977 [Keßler], 131: number attending annual assembly as % of those obliged to attend. g Shaw 2006, 116: number voting at assembly as % of total members.

On the “weak” end, by contrast, were guilds whose assemblies were attended by less than half of the members. These included both religious fraternities, such as the Stratford-upon-Avon guild of the Holy Cross with 40 to 60 per cent attendance in the early fifteenth century, and a number of craft guilds, notably the Venetian mercers in the early seventeenth century and several of the London livery companies from the 1590s onwards, which had less than 40 per cent attendance. Ian Archer describes other London guilds as also seeing a steep decline in attendance rates by 1600, although he does not report precise figures. As one member of the Skinners’ Company remarked when fined for absence from the assembly, “What am I the better for the company?”63 Low attendance at assemblies was an indicator of a guild that was “weak” in the sense that its members no longer believed it offered benefits sufficient to motivate participation.

According to this criterion, guilds emerge as strong in mid-sixteenth-century London and in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Germany, where we observe over four-fifths of members attending assemblies. On the other end of the spectrum, guilds emerge as weak—or at least incohesive—by c. 1600 in Venice and London, as only a minority of guild members bothered to turn up at meetings. Low participation rates weakened guilds’ ability to mobilize members to monitor each other or organize outside action.


Guilds’ strength also depended on relationships with the rest of the institutional framework of pre-modern society. For the reasons discussed in Chapter 2, political institutions were crucial. But guilds’ political strength was itself multidimensional. Direct representation in town councils or national parliaments could enhance guild strength. But even without such representation, guilds had other ways of gaining political support. Conversely, the political authorities could undermine guild strength by withholding recognition of their right to exist at all—something that afflicted all guilds in the end, though it took over a century to happen everywhere in Europe.

Political Representation

Representation in the decision-making bodies of government—the councils of city-states, the parliaments of territorial states—could help guilds achieve their ends. Across pre-modern Europe as a whole, David Stasavage draws a distinction between “autonomous” cities where guilds were stronger because they enjoyed direct political representation, and “non-autonomous” towns where lack of representation weakened guilds.64 This distinction, devised mainly for merchant guilds, works less well for craft guilds.

After the guild struggles of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, discussed in Chapter 2, craft guilds came to play a substantial role in the government of many of the 50 to 200 Free Imperial Cities of German-speaking central Europe.65 In the German south, where Free Imperial Cities were most numerous, the foremen of the guilds often automatically occupied seats on the town council, within which they formed an autonomous “guild-masters’ bench” from 1300 to at least 1650.66 Even further north in Germany, there were Free Imperial Cities such as Aachen where until c. 1800 the government was elected by guild representatives, among whom craftsmen predominated.67

But city-states did not inevitably grant political representation to guilds of craftsmen. In Italy, unlike Germany, city-states had representative institutions that were more often dominated by merchant guilds or by “sectoral” guilds in which merchants had a dominant voice. Guilds of artisans and petty traders seldom enjoyed political representation.68 Where this measure of guild strength is concerned, Italy comes out on the weak end of the spectrum even though it had many city-states.

But there were also territorial states in which craft guilds were strong due to their constitutional role in representative institutions. In fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Scotland, for instance, the “craft deacons” (guild headmen) elected parliamentary delegates, and the craft guilds of several Scottish towns enjoyed guaranteed seats in Parliament; when Scottish guilds lost their automatic entitlement to parliamentary representation in 1672, they also lost economic strength.69 In the southwest German territory of Württemberg, from c. 1500 onwards the guilds had a major voice in selecting delegates to the powerful parliament, which ensured the enforcement of guild privileges and the survival of the guilds themselves until 1862.70 In Sweden between 1719 and 1772, craftsmen participated in elections to the Rikdagen (parliament), and by 1771 made up 12 per cent of the Burghers’ Estate. This political representation gave rise to guild-friendly legislation, notably the 1720 craft law, which rolled out guild regulation across the secondary sector, and a 1734 decree strictly limiting workshop numbers.71 In the Southern Netherlands, too, guilds enjoyed a certain degree of political representation, which enabled them to manipulate the public powers to enforce guild regulations—more than in the Northern Netherlands, at any rate, though much less than in Germany or Sweden.72

On the other end of the spectrum were England and the Northern Netherlands, where craft guilds enjoyed even less political representation than in Italy. In the Northern Netherlands, guilds played no important role in political affairs, and consequently found it hard to get either provincial or central governments to enforce their privileges.73 In England, the small degree of parliamentary representation guilds enjoyed seldom secured them effective economic enforcement. In York in 1584, for instance, the guilds lobbied for the entitlement to inspect and regulate a guild-free “immunity” under cathedral jurisdiction, but the local MPs failed to persuade Parliament.74 In London, too, guild lobbying of municipal, parliamentary, and royal government became so ineffectual by the later sixteenth century that guild privileges enjoyed at best “intermittent and faltering regulation”.75 In 1605, the London skinners’ guild regarded parliamentary lobbying for enforcement of its privileges as so futile that its wardens refused to devote further funds to it.76

According to this criterion, guilds derived strength from political representation in many German city-states, in German territorial states such as Württemberg, in eighteenth-century Sweden, in Scotland before 1672, and in the Southern Netherlands (at least compared to its northern neighbour). By contrast, guilds were weakened by their lack of political representation in the Northern Netherlands, England, many Italian city-states, and Scotland after 1672.

Support from the Crown

Crown support could also reinforce guild strength. For one thing, as we saw in Chapter 2, guilds often secured direct royal confirmation of their charters, ordinances, and other privileges, giving them greater legitimacy. Guilds also sometimes obtained royal decrees entitling them to representation at lower levels of government, particularly on town councils.

By c. 1500, guilds in most European societies were procuring royal confirmation of earlier municipal, provincial, or customary privileges. In the German territory of Württemberg, for instance, the princely government began in the sixteenth century to issue national ordinances for previously local or regional guilds; the crown continued to issue and confirm guild privileges until 1862.77 In France, too, guilds were strengthened in 1581 when the crown issued an edict requiring all major crafts in most French cities, including Paris, to be organized into guilds with compulsory membership; guilds were bolstered still further in the second half of the seventeenth century when they were assigned a central role in royal taxation and regulation.78

At the other end of the spectrum, guilds in England largely failed to secure royal confirmation of their charters. The crown was only willing to grant charters to the London companies, and then only at eye-watering prices. The scale of the problem can be seen in York where in 1485 only two guilds (the merchants and the weavers) had royal charters, compared to 49 with merely municipal charters and 19 with no formal charters at all; when the tailors got their royal charter in 1662, they became only the third York guild to be recognized by the crown.79 As early as 1503–4, Henry VII legislated to restrain guild ordinances, on the grounds that they often ran counter to royal prerogative, the common law, and the liberty of the subject; he also forbade the implementation of guild regulations without permission from the chancellor, treasurer, and several chief justices.80 Those provincial English guilds that did obtain royal charters were often short-lived, and in 1620 the Privy Council decided that guilds in provincial towns “were generally injurious”, an attitude reflected in the unwillingness of the central government to grant any further guild incorporations in the provinces. As a result, most provincial English guilds relied for legitimacy on local borough corporations, tying them to the apron strings of local mayors and burgesses, which made them “weaker and more dependent on the urban authorities than their London counterparts”.81

A second way the crown strengthened guilds was by decreeing their representation at lower levels of government. In Catalonia, for instance, the crown ordered that master artisans were to occupy guaranteed seats on town councils, with the result that by 1257, 85 of the 200 representatives in the Barcelona city council were artisans; in 1454, new royal privileges gave the Barcelona craft guilds 64 of 144 town council positions; despite subsequent restrictions, the guilds retained significant political representation in Barcelona well into the seventeenth century.82 In Portugal, too, the crown guaranteed guilds representation on town councils: in 1384 King João I granted each Lisbon craft guild the right to elect two representatives to the municipal governing council, and King Afonso V (r. 1432–81) granted similar representation to guilds in a number of other towns, including Porto. Partly for this reason, Portuguese guilds fortified their powers throughout the early modern period and survived until 1877.83

According to the criterion of crown support, guilds were strong in Germany, Spain, Portugal, and France, where rulers either confirmed guild privileges in national legislation or compelled cities to grant them representation on town councils. On the other end of the spectrum were societies such as England, where provincial guilds largely failed to secure royal charters, and even the London livery companies only secured crown support at stiff prices.

Enforcement by Public Officials and Legal System

Guild strength depended not just on formal political representation but, as Hugo Soly points out, on “the extent to which the members of these organizations could regulate the occupation; ‘powerful’ guilds could impose penalties on those who violated the regulations”.84 As long as guilds enjoyed day-to-day enforcement from the administrative and legal system, they could stay strong without formal political representation.

Early modern Germany provides an excellent example of this mechanism. After the period of so-called “guild government” (c. 1350–c. 1650), the political representation of guilds diminished in many German city-states, but guilds’ privileges and functions remained strong.85 In German territorial states, guilds might lack parliamentary representation and even jurisdictional autonomy, but this hardly decreased their power to regulate economic activity. Engaging in most crafts and trades remained impossible without guild membership. Precisely because guild officers were overseen by public officials, they enjoyed public legitimacy in enforcing their entry barriers, apprenticeship, and journeymanship requirements, inter-guild demarcations, limits on competition, fixing of prices and supplies, restrictions on workshop size, equipment limits, market privileges, and protection against foreigners.86 Guilds derived their strength from utility to the state rather than from representation in parliament. Well into the nineteenth century, as Christiane Eisenberg points out, “the numerous German sovereigns expected [guilds] to support municipal authorities’ efforts to execute social control of the lower classes, as well as to collect trade taxes in their respective territories”.87

In France, too, guilds remained strong because they were useful to the state. The French Estates-General (national parliament) did not even meet for most of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and in any case did not grant direct representation to guilds. But throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the French bureaucracy and legal system systematically maintained, extended, and enforced the privileges of the guilds, which they relied on for industrial regulation and tax collection.88

Portugal provides a vivid illustration of how guild privileges could be enforced by the bureaucracy and legal system even when parliament fundamentally opposed them. In the first third of the nineteenth century, the first “liberal” Portuguese state found itself compelled to compromise with the powerful guilds, “even though at the level of parliamentary discourse, criticizing these institutions and praising liberal competition were dominant”.89

Societies such as these, where guilds continued to enjoy regulation from public officials and the legal system without any formal political representation, contrast strikingly with England, where by c. 1600 officials, magistrates, and judges were increasingly refusing to uphold guild privileges, invoking countervailing legal principles reaching back to Magna Carta. In London in 1598, when the merchant-tailors’ guild sought to enforce its rule that a member must get at least half his cloths dressed by a fellow guild member, the judges decided against the merchant-tailors on the grounds that the guild rule violated the common law by creating a monopoly: “a rule of such nature as to bring all trade or traffic into the hands of one company, or one person, and to exclude all others, is illegal”.90 In 1613, the London upholsters’ guild prosecuted a man for working as an upholsterer after he had served his apprenticeship as a wool packer; the judges found against the guild, arguing that apprenticeship requirements covered only skilled trades, whereas upholstering was neither a “trade nor a mystery and did not require any skill”. Moreover, the defendant was a resident of London, a city whose “custom”, guaranteed in Magna Carta, permitted a freeman to practice any trade or manual occupation within its area. According to Edward Coke, who was one of the judges, “a general law shall not take away any part of Magna Carta [and consequently] a man is not to be [unduly] restrained that he shall not labor for his living”.91 The following year, the Ipswich tailors’ guild tried to close down the business of a man who was working as a tailor without having served his apprenticeship in the guild or having otherwise secured its approval. As we saw in Chapter 7, the justices of the King’s Bench reached a landmark legal judgment against the guild on the grounds “that [under] the common law, no man could be prohibited from working in any lawful trade, for the law abhors idleness, the mother of all evil . . . and therefor [sic] the common law abhors all monopolies, which prohibit any from working in any lawful trade”.92 A similar case arose in Newbury in 1617, when the weavers’ guild complained that a man called Staps was working as a weaver without being a member of the guild. The judge decided against the guild, citing three grounds: “First, the common law did not forbid any man to exercise any trade, were he trained or not trained to it, or to exercise more trades than one . . . secondly, that the law [forbade] no man to use any trade privately. . . . Thirdly, that the law [forbade] . . . no man to exercise a trade publicly, that had been an apprentice to it wheresoever”.93 As such cases show, by 1600 or shortly thereafter, English guilds could no longer rely on enforcement from the legal system. Instead, judges were repeatedly invalidating guild privileges in favour of the fundamental rights of the individual “to labour for his living”.

Guilds thus enjoyed considerable strength in France, Portugal, and Germany, even where they lacked formal political representation, because of their support from the bureaucracy and the legal system. In such societies, guilds intensified and entrenched their political support after c. 1550, as they became increasingly indispensable to the regulatory and fiscal ambitions of the expanding early modern state. The opposite happened in societies such as England, where by 1600 at latest, officials and judges were increasingly refusing to uphold guilds against insiders and outsiders who breached their privileges.

Political Permission to Exist

A final political determinant of guilds’ strength was whether the authorities allowed them to exist at all. In the medieval and early modern periods, there were already a few cities, such as Nuremberg, Douai, and Leiden, where for long stretches of time the political authorities weakened guilds, excluded them from certain sectors, or even abolished them.94 There were also societies, notably England and the Low Countries, that had extensive quasi-urban agglomerations and even some true urban centres in which the political authorities did not recognize guild privileges. But it was not until the 1770s, as Table 9.4 shows, that “enlightened” regimes began to abolish guilds permanently across entire polities.

The first governments to abolish guilds were in small Italian principalities: Tuscany in 1770, Lombardy in 1771, Sicily in 1786, Milan in 1787. In France, the royal government temporarily abolished guilds in 1776 under its “enlightened” Controller General, Turgot, but resistance from other political forces proved too strong: Turgot was dismissed six months later and the guilds were restored. The 1789 Revolution did not immediately cause the French guilds to disappear, unsurprisingly given that less than 5 per cent of the cahiers de doléance submitted by urban bodies called for guild abolition.95 It was only in 1791, after hesitating painfully for 18 months, that the French Revolutionary parliament finally abolished the guilds. As France conquered neighbouring European polities over the ensuing years, French occupation governments or allied regimes imposed French-style institutional reforms including guild abolition: in the Southern Netherlands in 1795, Bologna in 1796, most of the German Rhineland in 1797–98, and the Northern Netherlands after 1798 (though abolition was not completed until 1818). Defeat by the French also set in motion the abolition of guilds in Rome in 1801, the Prussian territories after 1806, and Venice in 1806–1808.

But there were also many European governments that did not abolish guilds until long after the Napoleonic era. It took until 1844 for all remaining Italian polities to dissolve their guilds. Some Swiss cantons abolished guilds in 1798, but others did not do so until 1874. Many other states in southern, central, and Nordic Europe—Austria, Hungary, Portugal, a large number of German states, and all the Scandinavian ones—only abolished their guilds in the 1850s or even later. Hungary and Romania retained their guilds until 1870, Portugal until 1877. In Austria, although the Commercial Law of 1859 formally abolished guilds, it merely replaced them with compulsory “commercial associations” that were almost indistinguishable from guilds and survived until 1883.96 The political abolition of guilds in Europe thus drew itself out across more than 120 years, from 1760 to the 1880s.

TABLE 9.4: Dates of Guild Abolition in Different European Countries, 1770–1877

Political Unit



1859-60, 1883


1859-60, 1883










1776, 1791

Germany: Aachen


Germany: Baden


Germany: Bavaria


Germany: Berg (Duchy)


Germany: Bremen


Germany: Cologne


Germany: Hamburg


Germany: Hannover (Kingdom)


Germany: Hanseatic states


Germany: Lübeck


Germany: Mecklenburg


Germany: Nassau


Germany: Prussia


Germany: Prussian Rhineland (right bank)


Germany: Prussian Westphalia


Germany: Rhineland (left bank)


Germany: Saxony


Germany: Schleswig-Holstein


Germany: Württemberg




Italy: Altare, Piedmont


Italy: Bologna


Italy: Lombardy


Italy: Milan


Italy: Naples (Kingdom)


Italy: Palermo


Italy: Piedmont


Italy: Rome


Italy: Sardinia


Italy: Sicily


Italy: Turin


Italy: Tuscany


Italy: Venice


Luxembourg (Southern Netherlands)












Southern Netherlands (Belgium)






Switzerland (varied across cantons)

1798-1802, 1874

Source: Quantitative guilds database: 50 observations of date(s) of guild abolition in European polities. An expression of the form “1859-60” indicates that the process of abolition spanned the two dates. The form “1844/1864” indicates partial abolition at first date, full abolition at second. The form “1776, 1791” indicate failed abolition at first date, successful abolition at last date.

Political abolition may have been a sufficient condition for guilds’ losing economic power, but it cannot be seen as necessary. This is illustrated by England, where guilds were not formally abolished until the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, even though (or perhaps precisely because) they had lost economic power generations or centuries earlier.97 The date at which the state terminated the right of guilds to exist marked the definitive end of their economic entitlements, but whether guilds had been able to enforce these entitlements up until abolition can only be measured using other indicators.


The strength of guilds was also linked with another key component of the institutional system: towns. Guilds were stronger where they enjoyed representation in urban government, where municipal officials and courts helped them enforce their privileges, where there were no guild-free towns, where towns did not compete vigorously with one another, and where towns were able to regulate the surrounding countryside. These five features of urban institutions were often positively associated with one another, but they were seldom perfectly correlated.

Guild Representation in Town Government

Guilds were stronger where they were represented in town government. Even in territorial states, guilds were often buttressed by their representation on town councils, regardless of whether they were supported by the princely authorities. This emerges clearly from guilds’ strength in many territorial states of German-speaking central Europe, including Austria, Bavaria, Württemberg, and a number of Swiss cantons.98 In Iberia, too, craft guilds were bolstered by their guaranteed representation in town governments, in the cases of Catalonia and Portugal with explicit royal backing.99

In the Low Countries, by contrast, guilds enjoyed much less representation in town governments, reducing their capacity to defend their economic privileges. In the Northern Netherlands, guilds were somewhat stronger in the economically backward eastern and southern provinces, where they had some representation in town governments, but they were weak in the advanced maritime provinces of Holland, Zeeland and Friesland, where they had almost no voice in the governance of the great Dutch trading cities.100 In the Southern Netherlands, guild representation in town government was higher than in the North, but still low by European standards: even town councils with guild representation often rolled back guild entry barriers or even temporarily suspended entire guilds, as the Antwerp town council did to the presumptuous dyers’ guild in the late sixteenth century.101

England was another society in which the extent of guild representation in town government varied regionally but was overall weak and uneven by European standards. Inside England, guilds maintained their powers most effectively in London and the old corporate boroughs where they enjoyed representation in town government. They failed to take root entirely, by contrast, in the English dockyard towns, the new industrial towns, and the numerous and rapidly growing rural market towns, where there was no provision for any guild role in municipal government.102 Even in the old borough towns, craftsmen typically remained institutionally subordinated until the end of the fifteenth century, and in the few smaller towns where guilds maintained political influence they remained politically overshadowed by the merchants.103 Outside London and one or two exceptional northern towns such as York, English guilds were purely economic bodies with no political functions, fully controlled by town governments.104

In London, guilds had representation in urban government, but the city’s institutional peculiarities severely restricted their ability to make this economically effective. The liverymen (the elite members) of the fifty “livery companies” (the elite of the seventy London guilds) elected the Lord Mayor, one of the two sheriffs, and two of the city’s four MPs. But the “custom of London” diluted the motivation and ability of any London guild to mobilize this political representation in the interests of practitioners of a particular occupation. As we have seen, any “freeman” (London citizen) was entitled to enter a guild by “purchase” (paying a fee) or “patrimony” (being a member’s son) instead of “servitude” (having been apprenticed to that occupation), and subsequently to practise any occupation. This custom was confirmed for the textile sector as early as 1335, when the city authorities proclaimed that “it should be henceforward lawful for all freemen to set up looms in their hostels and elsewhere, and to weave cloth and sell it at will, so long as the King received his yearly farm”.105 It was well established for other London trades at latest by c. 1500, and by c. 1600 no London guild was able to limit membership to practitioners of the occupation from which the guild took its name.106 As the guilds themselves complained, this greatly reduced their capacity to focus their political influence on pursuing coherent economic interests.107

Taking a comparative perspective across Europe as a whole, therefore, we see that guilds enjoyed considerable strength because of their representation in town government in German city states, some German territorial states, Austria, Spain, and Portugal. On the other end of the spectrum, guilds were weak in the Northern Netherlands and England because they had little political influence in most important cities. The Southern Netherlands was an intermediate case, with greater guild representation in town government than in the Northern Netherlands but much less than in neighbouring Germany.

Enforcement of Guild Privileges by Town Officials

Guilds could also be robust without municipal representation so long as town officials had other incentives to enforce guild regulations. In Germany, even where guilds lacked formal representation in town government, they often still enjoyed enforcement of their privileges by urban officials because of their key role in taxation and regulation.108 The same was true in Austria, where guilds were expressly excluded from representation in the Viennese city government after 1526, yet retained their privileged economic position until 1859 because of their importance for tax collection and industrial regulation.109

In England and the Southern Netherlands, by contrast, town officials were often reluctant to enforce guild privileges. In the Southern Netherlands, despite guilds’ representation in town government, their regulations on such central issues as workshop size and sub-contracting were routinely violated, “thanks to the fact that the municipally approved guild statutes tacitly overlooked the practice”.110 In Antwerp after c. 1670, the municipal authorities became much less willing to permit guilds to bring litigation to municipal courts and guilds which did so obtained much less favourable verdicts.111 The same was true in London, where guilds were represented in the city government, but by 1600 were increasingly unable to obtain enforcement for their privileges from municipal officials or law-courts.112

When we compare different parts of Europe, therefore, this measure of guild strength shows substantial differences across societies. German and Austrian guilds maintained their entry barriers and market privileges even when they did not have representation in town governments, because they continued to enjoy support from the organs of municipal administration. Guilds in England and the Southern Netherlands, by contrast, were economically much weaker, even when they did have political representation, because municipal officials and town legal systems increasingly refused to enforce their privileges.

Towns or Occupations without Guilds

Guild lost strength where they were not pervasive across the urban system. In some European societies all towns had guilds, whereas in others there were towns without guilds. In some towns, virtually all craft occupations and many services were guilded, while in others many normally guilded occupations were guild-free. Guilds became more fragile in urban systems where some or all occupations were non-guilded, since such activities spawned low-cost competitors that threatened the high-cost guild producers.

Guilds were most robust in European societies where there were virtually no towns that were guild-free or that had guild-free crafts and trades. In most of German-speaking central Europe, Scandinavia, and Spain, from c. 1500 onwards governments increasingly made the guild system standard and universal, both for fiscal reasons and to prevent conflict between guilded and guild-free towns. Spain, for instance, had no guild-free cities, and guilds increasingly extended their regulation into small towns and rural areas from the later fifteenth century onwards.113 In the German territory of Württemberg, the sixteenth century saw all crafts compulsorily organized into district-level guilds that regulated both towns and villages.114 In Sweden, the national guild code required any craftsman in a town lacking a guild in that occupation to join the relevant guild in another town; the only exception was Eskiltuna, founded in 1771 as a deliberate exception—a “free town” without guilds.115

On the other end of the spectrum we find societies such as England and the Northern Netherlands, where guilds were absent from a surprising number of towns and occupations.116 In England, even in the medieval period there were virtually guild-free towns such as Wilton (famous for carpet-making), where all guilds but one disappeared in the thirteenth century and the final guild vanished in the fifteenth, creating a safe haven for one of the few permanent Jewish communities in England.117 More English towns lost their guilds permanently after 1546, when the crown abolished religious guilds and confiscated the religious property of craft guilds.118 Although purely occupational guilds survived or reconstituted themselves in London and many borough towns after 1546, they vanished forever in towns such as King’s Lynn. According to one estimate, by the late sixteenth century only one-quarter of the guilds in existence at the beginning of the century still survived.119 Over half the urban population lived in small towns, most of which by 1650 lacked functioning guilds; by 1689, “of 200 towns in England, only a quarter had any organised gilds at all”.120 Many new and expanding urban centres in England never had guilds: dockyard and spa towns; smaller unincorporated towns; towns in upland areas of the north; and fast-growing industrial centres such as Birmingham, Manchester, Halifax, and Wolverhampton.121 By the seventeenth century, the existence in England of so many towns that enjoyed the agglomeration economies of urban centres without having guilds created a competitive urban system that inevitably weakened the market segmentation on which, as we have seen, the economic power of guilds relied.

In the Northern Netherlands, likewise, many towns lacked guilds completely. Of the 158 early modern Dutch towns, about one-quarter had no guilds at all: some of these were small, but many were fast-growing industrial centres whose magistracies simply opposed guild formation.122 The Dutch Republic also had numerous quasi-urban agglomerations that had more inhabitants than many towns, but lacked urban charters and hence did not have guilds.123 Even in guilded Dutch towns, guilds did not exist in all occupations. Leiden, the most important Dutch textile centre, virtually abolished its textile guilds in the sixteenth century, replacing them with public regulatory institutions called neringen that were open to all practitioners.124 Leiden also formed guilds late or not at all in normally guilded occupations such as painting, printing, and bookbinding.125 Other Dutch towns were more thoroughly guilded than Leiden, but often had virtually guild-free textile sectors. As Hugo Soly points out,

The overwhelming majority of the textile producers in the United Provinces, employers and employees alike, operated outside the corporative context. Only a tiny minority of the thousands of manual artisans working for the new drapery in Leiden, the most important textile centre, belonged to a craft guild. Nor were the wool weavers and silk weavers in Amsterdam, the linen bleachers in Haarlem, the cloth weavers in Delft, or the producers of serges and fustians in Gouda organized in guilds.126

Guilds were also missing from some of the most important non-textile export industries in the Northern Netherlands, including tobacco-spinning, sugar-refining, diamond-processing, beer-brewing, soap-making, and calico-printing.127 Important commercial activities, such as the second-hand trade, had guilds in only eight Dutch towns (5 per cent of the total), compared to virtually 100 per cent of towns in the Southern Netherlands or Germany.128

France was an intermediate case. The famous French royal guild ordinance of 1581 lamented that “the majority of the craftsmen in our kingdom, particularly in towns, hamlets and other places where there is neither gild master nor warden to test their products, have become so independent that the majority of them are not half as good and reliable as they ought to be”.129 Although this ordinance enjoyed some success in extending guilds into such “independent” localities, a number of French towns did not have guilds at all, and others remained only lightly guilded.130 Lyon, for instance, had the most successful silk industry in Europe, but prided itself on its status as a “free town” which, until the mid-sixteenth century, had almost no legally recognized guilds, and even thereafter developed, in its dynamic silk industry, an Italian-style “sectoral” guild whose strength was tempered by internal heterogeneity.131 Roubaix, too, exploited its seigneurial protection from guild regulation to develop dynamic and innovative textile industries that challenged the guilds of neighbouring Lille.132 France also had large cities where many normally guilded occupations lacked guilds. Paris had some of France’s most powerful guilds, but in the thirteenth century an estimated 23 per cent of its crafts were not guilded, rising to an estimated fifty per cent by 1673; the city only became pervasively guilded after 1700.133 In Poitiers as late as 1708, only 54 per cent of crafts had guilds; in Châtellerault, the next-largest town in Poitou, it was less than one-third.134 In Bordeaux in 1762, there were 85 organized trades, of which 46 per cent had royal statutes, 12 per cent had informal regulations without official statutes, and 42 per cent (employing 54 per cent of the city’s artisans) were “free trades” with no guilds, open to anyone.135

Italy was another intermediate case. On the one hand, most of the central and north Italian city-states were comprehensively guilded themselves and used their political powers to intensify guild regulation in subject cities.136 On the other hand, there were important industrial cities, such as Vicenza, where guilds were notoriously weak and the successful silk industry was wholly non-guilded until 1652, when Venice forced it to set up a guild which then remained wholly inactive.137 The existence of centres such as Vicenza, whose major industries were guild-free, put competitive pressure on guilds in other Italian cities. They could only maintain guild strength by deploying political coercion.

In a European perspective, therefore, guilds were strong in German-speaking central Europe, Scandinavia, and Spain because of their sheer pervasiveness, which intensified after 1500 because of the standardizing initiatives of the early modern state. France and Italy were intermediate cases. Political authorities there tried to make guilds pervasive across the urban system, but they did not entirely succeed. On the other end of the spectrum, societies such as England and the Northern Netherlands had highly diversified urban systems in which non-guilded towns and occupations exerted competitive pressure on their guilded neighbours, weakening the ability of all guilds to enforce their privileges.

Inter-Urban Competition

Even in urban systems in which virtually all towns had guilds, the intensity of competition between towns affected the strength of those guilds. Towns often owed their establishment to favourable geographical endowments—harbours, trade routes, ore deposits. Such endowments created “locational rents” protecting a town’s producers from competition to some extent. But if a region was densely urbanized, this natural protection was diluted by the proximity of other towns whose guilded producers also enjoyed locational advantages.

In densely urbanized zones of Europe, towns were so close to one another that they could only protect themselves from competition institutionally, via strong urban privileges, state protection, or political borders. Both Italy and the Low Countries were densely urbanized, for example, but the two regions diverged in the late medieval period. For one thing, each Italian city-state erected political protections for its own guilds against those of nearby cities, whereas each Flemish or Dutch city was located in a territorial or federal state, and therefore could provide much less political protection to its own guilds against competition from guilds of nearby cities. For another, topographical barriers increased the costs of inter-guild competition in northern Italy, while flat land, numerous rivers, and an expanding canal system decreased natural barriers to inter-urban competition in the Low Countries. England also benefited from a competitive urban system, in which towns’ economic contention was intensified by a long coastline served by low-cost shipping (virtually all the towns that experienced growth in early modern England were ports). In addition, English towns found it difficult to get government protection against industrial or commercial competition emanating from rival towns.138

In other European societies, by contrast, guilds benefited from the fact that competition between towns was much less vigorous, whether for geographical or institutional reasons. France, for instance, was not highly urbanized and its towns used locational advantages, their own political weight, and royal decrees to protect their guilds from those of other French towns. Scotland, too, was not highly urbanized, and its major towns protected themselves from one another’s competition by agreeing on spheres of interest through the Convention of Royal Burghs; not until the Act of 1672 were these burgh monopolies dismantled, opening up Scottish guilds to competition from the guilds of other burghs, as well as non-guilded producers outside the burghs.139

In a European perspective, therefore, guilds enjoyed considerable strength in societies such as Scotland before 1672, Italy, and France because of barriers—whether geographical or political—that protecting the guilds of one town from the competition posed by guilds in other towns. In the Southern Netherlands, the Northern Netherlands, and England, by contrast, lower geographical and institutional barriers between towns created a competitive urban system, making it harder for guilds to profit from market segmentation and locational rents.


Guilds were also stronger where they could suppress rural competition. Towns enjoyed agglomeration economies—spillover benefits from access to clusters of skilled workers, specialized inputs, finance, and innovative ideas—which created advantages for urban guild members. Despite these urban advantages, however, non-guilded rural areas generated constant competitive pressure. To maintain their strength, guilds had to suppress their rural rivals. One approach was to intensify urban control over the surrounding countryside. Towns could not stamp out rural crafts and services completely. But they could increase rural costs and risks by limiting villagers and peasants to low-value work and enforcing urban guild monopolies over higher-value-added processing and commerce.

In some societies, towns had little control over the countryside. In the Northern and Southern Netherlands, for instance, a dense network of towns with “conflicting privileges and overlapping rural hinterlands” prevented the guilds of any one town from controlling even the immediate countryside.140 From the medieval period onwards, the Southern Netherlands saw a huge growth in rural textile production which neither towns nor guilds were able to block.141 The rural agglomeration of Hondschoote in southern Flanders, for instance, grew rapidly from the fourteenth to the mid-sixteenth century, exported its output to eager customers all over Europe, surpassed the moribund guilded textile industries of the Flemish towns, and developed all the characteristics of an industrial town, except for guild regulations.142 In the Northern Netherlands, too, “gaining a stranglehold over rural regions proved impossible for most cities . . . [and] prohibitions of rural trade and industry were never rigorously enforced”.143 Even after c. 1700, when Dutch guilds became more restrictive, the non-guilded countryside of the Zaanstreek north of Amsterdam expanded rapidly, attracting away from the guilded cities important industries such as the making of ships, mills, machines, dyes, paints, and paper, as well as the processing of hemp and timber.144

England was another society in which towns failed to extend guild restrictions beyond urban boundaries. The suburbs of London largely freed themselves from guild regulation at an early date.145 In provincial borough towns, too, guilds rapidly lost out to free producers outside the walls, from which most industrial growth emanated.146 Non-guilded industrial agglomerations arose in unincorporated towns and villages in the Kentish Weald, the West Country, East Anglia, Yorkshire, and many other regions.147 Rural centres, such as Lavenham and Long Melford, and unincorporated urban settlements, such as the Cotswold wool-towns, Leeds, Halifax, and Birmingham, where guilds were few or feeble, surpassed such strongly guilded borough towns as York, Beverley, Coventry, Lincoln, Stamford, and Winchester, and contributed to their industrial decay.148 Likewise, guild-free towns such as Chatham and Gillingham became the main dockyard centres on the Medway estuary, supplanting the ancient city of Rochester with its restrictive guilds.149

In other parts of Europe, by contrast, towns controlled the countryside more successfully. In many German polities, towns were politically entitled to regulate their rural regions, reserve lucrative occupations to urban guild masters, impose “staple” requirements that obliged rural producers to deliver raw materials and manufactures to urban markets, intervene in rural industries, and even extend guild regulation to the countryside itself.150 In Austria, too, towns exercised important regulatory functions in rural proto-industries, even after the mid-eighteenth century when the Imperial administration tried to reign in urban interference.151 Spain was another society in which towns and guilds continued to dominate rural industries in regions as various as Castile and Catalonia.152

In between these two extremes—the guild-free countrysides of England and the Low Countries and the much more intense regulation of rural production in central Europe and Iberia—lay societies such as Scotland before 1672, Switzerland, France, and to some extent Italy. Here, towns continued to exercise some control over the countryside, protecting guilds to a certain extent. In central and northern Italy, some rural industries remained heavily dominated by urban guilds, while others found enclaves of “institutional particularism . . . free from the power of the cities”.153 In Scotland, the larger towns exercised considerable control over trade and cottage industry in their rural regions until 1672, when political support for burghs and guilds was removed.154 In Switzerland, towns in some cantons retained monopolies over bleaching and dyeing, inspection rights, marketing monopolies, customs privileges, and were able to regulate rural industry throughout the eighteenth century, while others, such as the canton of Bern and the Zürich uplands, saw the emergence of vigorous, guild-free rural industries.155 In France, some stages of proto-industrial production began to shift to the countryside in the sixteenth century, even though country-dwellers had to wait until 1762 for the crown to declare their textile production fully legal.156

In a European perspective, guilds were weakened by feeble town controls over the countryside in societies such as the Southern Netherlands, the Northern Netherlands, and England. On the other end of the spectrum, guilds were strengthened in Germany, Austria, and Spain by the robust and in some cases intensifying control towns were able to extend into their hinterlands. In Scotland before 1672, as well as Italy, Switzerland, and France, an intermediate degree of urban control over the surrounding countryside enabled guilds to maintain an intermediate degree of strength in enforcing their members’ economic privileges.


Rural institutions also influenced the strength of guilds. Guilds embedded themselves in the rural economy itself in many different ways, as we saw in Chapter 3. Sometimes existing urban guilds required rural producers to become members. Sometimes producers set up “regional” guilds that included villagers alongside townsmen. Sometimes they set up guilds whose entire membership was rural. Finally, guilds interacted with seigneurial institutions, sometimes opposing them, but also sometimes collaborating with them.

Guilds that Included Rural Producers

In some societies, urban guilds were able to defend themselves from rural competition by bringing rural producers into the guild. In England, the Low Countries, France, and Scandinavia this was rare: few urban guilds compelled rural craftsmen to join them.157 But in many parts of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Bohemia, Italy, and Iberia, it was quite common.158 The disadvantage for urban guilds was that this involved relaxing entry barriers against men who lacked town citizenship. The advantage was that it enabled guilds to limit the numbers of rural craftsmen and make them comply with the types of market manipulation discussed in Chapter 4. Co-opting rural craftsmen helped urban guilds reduce local competition and sustain market privileges.

Rural producers themselves sometimes formed guilds, as we saw in Chapter 3. This took two different forms: “regional” guilds that included both urban and rural masters; and purely rural guilds in which all the masters were country-dwellers. Rural and regional guilds were virtually non-existent in England, the Low Countries, and France, as we saw in Chapter 3. English guilds never included rural producers. Stuart plans to set up county-level guilds for rural New Draperies weavers in the 1620s were never implemented, and in England neither villages nor the many unincorporated country towns had any occupational guilds.159 In the Northern Netherlands, rural guilds existed but were rare: between c. 1100 and c. 1800, 1,374 guilds were established in towns, but only 94 in villages, about 6 per cent of all Dutch guilds.160 In the Southern Netherlands no rural guilds are recorded, except for a few informal associations among pedlars and potters.161 In France, rural guilds were virtually unknown.162

Across vast swathes of central, eastern-central, southern and south-eastern Europe, by contrast, rural and regional guilds were common.163 As Table 3.4 showed, rural and regional guilds appear in 14 of the 23 European societies represented in the guilds database, but they were particularly widespread in central and south-eastern Europe. According to Josef Ehmer, after 1500 rural guild membership in central Europe showed a quantitative uptick, and by the early eighteenth century village guild members far outnumbered their urban counterparts in various regions of Germany and Austria.164 Surveys of Württemberg in 1759, Baden-Durlach in 1767, and Bavaria in 1811 found that 80 to 95 per cent of all craftsmen were organized into guilds, with little difference between urban and rural areas.165 Rural guilds were common in early modern Spain as well,166 with new ones continuing to be formed in rural crafts and industries well into the eighteenth century in Castile,167 Montes de Cameros and the Tierra de Campos,168 Galicia,169 and Catalonia.170 According to one regional study, at least 80 per cent of Catalan weaving villages were guilded in 1760.171 Eastern-central and south-eastern Europe was also richly endowed with rural guilds. In Ottoman Thessaly, rural producers of dyed cotton yarn for export set up their own guilds in the eighteenth century.172 In the north-central Bulgarian region of Gabrovo, rural wool-producers and knife-smiths organized themselves into guilds in the nineteenth century.173 In Hungary, a majority of the thousand or so guild charters issued between 1790 and 1848 were for guilds that were either rural-urban or wholly rural.174

Guilds were inevitably weaker in societies such as England, the Northern and Southern Netherlands, France, and Scandinavia, where guild regulations did not extend beyond town walls and rural producers were not organized into guilds, with the result that rural competition was rampant. Conversely, guilds were stronger in those areas of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Bohemia, Italy, Spain, Hungary, and south-east Europe, where rural producers themselves joined guilds, diminishing competitive pressure from the countryside and helping shore up guild regulation.

Guilds and Seigneurial Institutions

Guilds’ strength was also affected by their relations with seigneurial institutions—the powers and privileges of landlords and nobles. Traditionally, the powers of guilds and seigneurs have been regarded as inversely correlated, with guilds exemplifying horizontal “social capital” that counteracted the vertical hierarchy of seigneurialism.175 In the words of John Kemble, “in the times of the densest seignorial darkness, [guilds] offered a noble resistance to episcopal and baronial tyranny, and formed the nursing-cradles of popular liberty”.176

In western Europe, this inverse relationship between guilds and seigneurial authorities was largely the norm, with each keeping the other in check. In the medieval period, the wider economy benefited where guilds curbed seigneurial excesses. In thirteenth-century Flanders, as we saw in Chapter 2, guilds often struggled against nobles for control of town government, taxation, and industrial regulation; guild victories rid industry of arbitrary seigneurial regulations, though at the cost of giving the guilds themselves more coercive power over women, workers, migrants, Jews, and other disadvantaged groups.177 In fourteenth-century England, too, guilds orchestrated violent attacks on local ecclesiastical overlords, as in Bury St Edmunds in 1327 or Cirencester in 1342, although in both cases the guilds combined merchants with craftsmen.178

In the early modern period, tension between guilds and seigneurial authorities persisted, but now its wider economic benefits flowed in the opposite direction, with seigneurial jurisdictions curbing guild abuses. In Sweden, for instance, the tension between urban guilds and seigneurial privileges created interstices for low-cost, non-guilded craftsmen to operate in rural areas.179 In France, seigneurial jurisdictions created guild-free enclaves which encouraged innovation and industrial dynamism in Paris, Rouen, Bordeaux, Lyon, Troyes, and many other towns.180 Seigneurial protection also sustained French textile agglomerations such as Roubaix, whose seigneur, the Duke of Rohan, protected textile workers against threats from the guilds of nearby Lille.181

Even in western Europe, however, guilds and seigneurs did not always keep one another in check. Sometimes, they collaborated to extract rents for both parties. In late medieval and early modern Luxembourg and Chiny, for example, guild charters were often granted by local seigneurs, as in 1358 when the butchers’ guild of Marche-en-Famenne secured privileges from “the mayors, aldermen, sworn masters and all the good consuls and community of the town . . . for the great profit of our dear seigneur and the said town”.182 In fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Austria, too, guilds got privileges not just from town councils, but also from the patrimonial courts of the landed nobility—although in Vienna we also later see seigneurial privileges creating interstices within which non-guilded craftsmen could operate.183 One of the few rural guilds in the northern Netherlands, that of the linen-weavers in the Gelderland village of Winterswijk, obtained its charter in 1682 from the local seigneur, partly by claiming that a guild would enable them better “to fulfil their duties to the overlord”.184

In eastern-central Europe, this pattern was typical. Guilds and seigneurs found that by working together, they could both extract profits from industry at the expense of the rest of the economy. Such cooperation was especially intense in seigneurial towns, those located inside the domains of overlords and subject to their jurisdiction, which comprised a large share of the urban sector in eastern-central Europe.185 In Polish seigneurial towns such as Opatów, for instance, the seigneurial administrator granted and enforced guild charters in return for guild assistance with local administration, regulation, tax collection, and military organization.186 In many regions of early modern Bohemia, seigneurial enforcement enabled the rise and survival of guilds, which often also included rural producers.187 In Hungary, a majority of the guild charters granted between 1790 and 1848 were issued by the seigneurial administrators of rural market towns and villages.188

In eastern-central Europe, guilds were attractive institutional allies for seigneurs for the same reasons that made guilds attractive allies for princes and city governments in central and western Europe. Guilds offered the political authorities—whether seigneurial, royal, or municipal—information, expertise, and local personnel to tax and regulate industrial activities more effectively than exiguous pre-modern administrations could do on their own. Where guilds continued to offer attractive services to seigneurial overlords, they were able to retain considerable economic power.

In this respect, guilds were weaker in societies such as England, the Southern Netherlands, Sweden, and France, where a beneficial tension prevailed between seigneurial and guild institutions. But in societies such as Poland, Bohemia, and Hungary, seigneurs collaborated with guilds to extract rents from industry which they then shared between them; in these areas, guilds were stronger. Austria, Luxembourg, and even parts of the Northern Netherlands were intermediate cases, with scattered examples of collaboration between seigneurs and guilds, even though it was not a general phenomenon, and in Austria seigneurs often also granted guild-free privileges.


Jurisdictional enclaves were further indicators of guild strength—or, rather, weakness. Modern legal scholars tend to view multiple jurisdictions as harmful because they increase the costs of enforcing contracts and property rights. But in pre-modern economies, multiple jurisdictions also created beneficial institutional competition, enabling producers and traders to shop around for superior legal enforcement. A major source of commercial dynamism in medieval centres such as the Champagne fairs, for instance, was the co-existence of jurisdictions under the control of the territorial prince, the municipal government, local religious houses, and the fair administration itself. This offered merchants alternatives, putting pressure on all jurisdictions to offer better enforcement of property and contracts.189 In medieval England, too, one institutional feature improving factor and product markets was that people could shop around among manorial, ecclesiastical, municipal, and royal courts, which prevented any single jurisdiction from creating enduring market distortions.190 On the same pattern, guilds were undermined where multiple jurisdictions co-existed in the same urban agglomeration. Ecclesiastical, seigneurial, and royal jurisdictions created guild-free enclaves inside towns, enabling competition between rival institutional systems in the same locality. This made it possible for producers to avoid guild restrictions without losing local advantages such as resource endowments or agglomeration economies.

Medieval Italy provides vivid illustrations of this mechanism. The remarkable dynamism of medieval Italian industries owed a great deal to the tendency of powerful Italian states to grant “privileges” and “freedoms” exempting certain places from guild regulation. The small Tuscan town of Colle, for instance, got special privileges from the Florentine state in the fifteenth century, freeing its industrial entrepreneurs from urban guild regulation.191 Indeed, the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Florentine state often granted privileges to frontier regions, such as the Casentino valley, the Alpi Fiorentine, and the Valdinievole, creating “special economic zones” exempt from guild regulations virtually in perpetuity, in turn contributing to the extraordinary industrial dynamism of late medieval Italy.192

Jurisdictional enclaves also created zones in which some French industries could flourish. French intellectuals and civil servants often lamented that the industries of France lagged far behind those of the Netherlands and England because of guild abuses. But given the strength of French guilds, French industry was surprisingly dynamic, often thanks to guild-free enclaves. Towns as large and diverse as Paris, Rouen, Bordeaux, Lyon, and Troyes had numerous seigneurial, ecclesiastical and royal enclaves where guild privileges were suspended. Within these enclaves, as we saw in Chapter 8, non-guilded producers introduced new practices, products, and techniques that competed successfully with guild production, putting pressure on local guildsmen to relax some of their own restrictions in order to survive.193

Jurisdictional enclaves suspending or weakening guild privileges also supported economic dynamism in Dutch and English cities. In The Hague, jurisdiction was divided between the court and the town government: within the so-called Inner Courtyard, the jurisdiction of the town guilds did not apply, making it possible to practise guilded occupations without guild membership and to introduce innovations those guilds prohibited.194 In England, even strongly guilded towns contained guild-free enclaves. York, for instance, had the royal castle with its seven-acre grounds, a hereditary manorial forest jurisdiction, the cathedral dean and chapter, an abbey, a hospital, and (until the Reformation in the 1530s) seven priories. Inside these “immunities”, clusters of non-guilded shoemakers, weavers, and other poor craftsmen congregated, to the huge annoyance of the York guilds.195 In London, even within the town walls, guild regulation was suspended in numerous ecclesiastical and seigneurial enclaves, most of which survived the Reformation. These “liberties” lay very close to the centre of London, permitting liberty of labour by non-guilded producers in the heart of the city. Outside the medieval town walls, the London suburbs were virtually free of guild regulation and grew rapidly, increasing the population of the metropolitan area from c. 120,000 in 1550 to c. 375,000 in 1650, and swamping the guilded producers of the small city area. Sporadic attempts by the city’s guilds to extend their control into the suburbs proved futile. The proximity of these jurisdictional enclaves in turn sharpened the competition faced by guilded producers in London itself, as shown by the constant conflict in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries between guilded cutlers or shoemakers in London and their non-guilded competitors in Southwark and Westminster, dangerously close to the guild masters’ richest customer base.196 By the 1530s, guild-free suburbs were so ubiquitous in English towns that a tourist remarked that Hull was strange for not having any; in Scotland, by contrast, Perth was the only town with a suburb before 1500.197

After c. 1500, the emerging absolutist state extended strong bureaucratic government across many European societies. In some, this rationalization of legitimate coercion either abolished jurisdictional enclaves altogether or reduced their capacity to offer an environment free of guild regulation. Even in France, so richly endowed with privileged jurisdictions, the capacity of seigneurial privileges to maintain guild-free enclaves in Paris was downgraded after 1675, and again in 1746, which meant that only those enclaves whose seigneurs actively intervened in their support were able to maintain “liberty of work”.198 In many German territories, the administrative standardization of the sixteenth century was much more sweeping. After the Reformation, German Protestant rulers and town councils abolished religious houses and cathedral chapters, which had previously sheltered guild-free craftsmen who competed with guild masters.199 Both Protestant and Catholic states in German-speaking central Europe reacted to the existential pressures of the Thirty Years’ War by developing massive and all-encompassing bureaucracies, which tended simultaneously to eradicate jurisdictional enclaves and reinforce the collaborative relationship between guilds and governments.200 In the German and Austrian lands, the widespread disappearance of jurisdictional enclaves after c. 1600 meant that escaping guild regulation required leaving the locality or the territory altogether. This involved much higher costs and risks than quietly moving into an institutional enclave in the same locality. Emigrating not only meant abandoning local resource endowments and social capital, but also, as we saw in Chapters 35, risking penalties from other guilds in the interlinked corporative system of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.

In a European perspective, guilds were significantly weakened in societies such as Italy, England, and the Northern Netherlands where jurisdictional enclaves created guild-free zones inside towns, which challenged the entry barriers and market manipulations of the surrounding guilds. On the other end of the spectrum, we find societies such as Germany, where jurisdictional enclaves were rationalized and abolished from the sixteenth century onwards, indirectly strengthening guilds by removing a local source of legitimate guild-free competition. France and Scotland were intermediate cases. In France guild-free enclaves were numerous but were increasingly restricted throughout the eighteenth century, indirectly shoring up the local guilds. In Scotland, by contrast, towns that lacked guild-free enclaves before c. 1600 developed them thereafter, contributing to the gradual weakening of the Scottish guilds.201


We have now completed our exploration of eight different dimensions of guild strength: their numbers, their relationships with merchants, their internal cohesion, their relationship with state institutions, their place in the urban system, their ability to regulate the countryside, their interaction with rural institutions, and the existence of guild-free jurisdictional enclaves. This multi-dimensional approach gave rise to the 23 indicators shown in Table 9.1, which provide means for assessing what exactly “the guild” was able to do in different societies and time-periods.

Taken together, the criteria in Table 9.1 reveal the existence of relatively strong guilds in much of central, southern and Nordic Europe: the German lands, Austria-Hungary, the Iberian peninsula, and the Scandinavian societies. Guild enumerations for Austro-Hungary show that in Lower Austria and Vienna new guilds continued to be formed into the late eighteenth century, and in Hungary well into the nineteenth. For Germany and Spain, as well, the historical record confirms that guilds continued to be established in large numbers at least to the end of the eighteenth century. In all these societies, merchants also had strong guilds and privileged associations, but they were seldom able to circumvent the control that craft guilds wielded over the majority of industrial and commercial occupations. Instead, craft guilds and merchant associations typically colluded, using their privileges to extract cartelistic profits from industry and trade, even as they then squabbled over how to share out the spoils. The internal cohesiveness of guilds in these societies was high, as far as can be judged from the frequency of guild assemblies and the proportion of members attending them. In many of these societies, guilds enjoyed political representation in the government via town councils or territorial parliaments; in all, guilds enjoyed enforcement of their privileges by government officials, in many cases well into the nineteenth century. Urban institutions in these societies typically bolstered guild effectiveness: municipal officials enforced guild regulations, guild-free towns were rare, guilded towns secured regulations protecting their craftsmen against competition from other guilded towns, and towns exercised noticeable control over the countryside. These societies were also ones in which guilds most often extended their control over rural producers, whether by compelling them to join existing urban guilds, organizing them into “regional” and rural guilds, or collaborating with the seigneurial authorities. Some central and southern European societies had guild-free jurisdictional enclaves, but these were progressively squeezed by the authorities and seldom offered effective shelter to non-guilded producers.

Guild strength hovered at an intermediate level in societies such as Switzerland, France, Italy, and in some German territories—including the Rhineland. Comprehensive enumerations of guilds are only available for Italy, but other historical records show that in all these societies, guilds continued to form well into the eighteenth century: in Dijon, for instance, 16 new guilds were formed in the 1730s alone, one-fifth of the 80 guilds that existed in the town in 1791.202 In these societies, merchants also had guilds, but competition between craftsmen and merchants gave rise to interstices within which the regulations of both types of corporate organization could be circumvented, as in Basel where the ribbon loom was adopted because of conflict between merchants and craft guilds, or in Lyon where fruitful tensions between merchants and weavers inside the silk guild encouraged innovation. In many of the most important Italian industrial cities, “sectoral” guilds combined multiple occupations that had divergent interests, weakening internal cohesion.

Guilds enjoyed a certain degree of influence in government in Switzerland, France, and the German Rhenish territories, though much less in Italy. But governments in these societies did not always yield to guild pressure, instead often granting guild-free privileges to entrepreneurs even while also maintaining guild privileges. Guilds in these societies survived until the later eighteenth century, but were among the first wave of guild abolitions: in some pioneering Italian states from the 1770s on, France in 1791, the left-bank Rhineland in 1798, and Swiss cantons such as Geneva in 1798 (although other Swiss cantons restored their guilds and retained them until 1874). Guilds enjoyed a certain degree of representation in town governments and enforcement of their rules by municipal officials in Switzerland, France, and the Rhineland, but their interests were often counterbalanced by those of others, which prevented them from calling the shots. These societies also contained a certain number of towns or quasi-urban agglomerations where guilds were absent or extraordinarily weak—the Italian city of Vicenza, the French town of Roubaix, the Rhineland town of Krefeld, and the fast-growing villages of the Zürich uplands and the Bernese countryside, for example—which sheltered competitors against the guilded towns. Guilded towns were to some extent protected from the competition of other guilded towns by geographical distance in France, by cantonal boundaries in Switzerland, and by political boundaries in territorially fragmented Italy and the Rhineland. But all four societies saw a certain degree of inter-urban competition, which set brakes on the market manipulation that could be practised by the guilds of any given town. Swiss, French, Italian, and Rhenish towns exerted some regulation over the countryside, but rural industries gradually circumvented urban guild regulations, albeit with high costs and risks.

France had hardly any rural guilds, and although Switzerland, Italy and the Rhineland had a few, they were much less common than elsewhere in central Europe. In France and the Rhineland, guilds had a conflictual rather than a collaborative relationship with seigneurial institutions, while in Switzerland and most Italian states seigneurial institutions were mostly irrelevant. Finally, all these societies contained jurisdictional enclaves which sheltered non-guilded producers, though they did not always protect them fully from guild harassment. The co-existence of guilded cities, guild-free zones, and producers operating under guild-free privileges did not make for completely flexible production or well-functioning markets. Rather, it spawned constant petitions, lawsuits, confiscations, arrests, disputes, demonstrations, violence, claims, and counter-claims. These in turn increased risks and costs, deterring innovation, investment, and growth.203

A third cluster of European societies met few of the criteria in Table 9.1, which in turn limited guilds’ ability to erect entry barriers and manipulate markets. These societies included the Southern Netherlands (especially in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but again after c. 1750); the Northern Netherlands (especially before and during its Golden Age, up to c. 1670, but continuing to some degree during the eighteenth century); and England (especially after about 1550). This does not mean that these societies lacked guilds. Although England experienced a sharp drop in guild numbers between 1500 and 1600, a few guilds were still being set up there in the early seventeenth century. In the Northern and Southern Netherlands, guild foundations continued into the eighteenth century. But these guilds lacked most of the other hallmarks of economically effective organizations.

In England and the Low Countries, guilds exercised little political power. There were no city-states, and urban representatives in parliaments were neutralized by urban (or rural) representatives from other parts of the country with countervailing interests. Nor did English, Dutch, or Flemish guilds enjoy abundant enforcement of their privileges by state officials. In Flemish cities such as Ghent, the Habsburg rulers intervened as early as the sixteenth century to abolish a number of guilds, reorganize the others, and lower guild entry barriers.204 In the Northern Netherlands, the States General struck down guild bans on the ribbon frame in the early seventeenth century, even though the authorities displayed greater willingness to enforce other guild regulations in the eighteenth century. The English crown suppressed those guilds with any significant religious functions in the 1540s. Although it tolerated purely occupational guilds, the crown confiscated their religious property and increasingly withheld enforcement of their economic privileges, denying royal charters to provincial guilds after c. 1500, rebuffing London company lobbying by the late sixteenth century, repeatedly refusing to ban the ribbon frame from the 1610s onwards, and increasingly declining to provide regulatory support to guilds after the 1620s.205 The low probability of state enforcement reduced internal cohesiveness in the London guilds by c. 1600 and deepened their reluctance to devote resources to lobbying.

Guilds did enjoy representation in the governments of some English, Dutch, and Flemish towns, and this gave rise to some enforcement of guild privileges by municipal officials. But town councils in England and the Low Countries often made guilds lower their entry barriers and even abolished over-mighty guilds. Moreover, municipal enforcement could only strengthen those guilds that existed. England and the Low Countries had important industrial agglomerations that were free of guilds. In medieval Flanders, guilds were absent from the city of Douai and the quasi-urban agglomeration of Hondschoote. In the Northern Netherlands, guilds were absent in one-quarter of all towns, in the dense industrial zone of the Zaanstreek north of Amsterdam, and in most of the textile sector even in otherwise guilded cities. England had numerous dockyard towns, country towns, and the rapidly industrializing “new towns” of the Midlands and north which never had any guilds.206 Those towns that had guilds were often geographically close to one another and were rendered more competitive by low-cost coastal shipping and (in the case of the Low Countries) inland water transport. Urban guilds almost never regulated the countryside in England and the Low Countries, rural guilds were virtually non-existent, and guilds were not supported by seigneurial institutions. Guild-free enclaves under seigneurial, ecclesiastical or royal jurisdiction were not important in the Low Countries, where industry typically only had to move outside the town walls to be guild-free, but they played an important role in London, where they enabled non-guilded craftsmen to enjoy the agglomeration economies of one of the largest cities in Europe, without the guilds.

This discussion is far from a complete account of how the strength of guilds varied across Europe. In practice, there were as many variants of guild strength as there were guilds themselves. There were important differences in guild strength inside each European society. Within the Low Countries, guilds were stronger in the Southern Netherlands (modern Belgium) than in the Northern Netherlands. Inside the Northern Netherlands, guilds were stronger in the southern and eastern provinces than in the western ones, particularly Holland. Within England, guilds were stronger in the old English borough towns than in the “new” towns, in many of which they never even emerged. There were even greater dissimilarities across the zone of strong guilds, both between the different German-speaking, Iberian, and Scandinavian societies, and inside them. Furthermore, as the intermediate guilds of France, Italy, Switzerland, and the Rhineland show, there were European societies in which guild development followed distinct paths.

How do these variegated patterns of guild strength map onto measures of economic vitality? Two data series are widely used as a basis for long-term, historical comparisons of economic performance across European societies. The first is the series compiled by Angus Maddison, which estimates per capita GDP for most European economies at certain benchmark dates between 1000 and 1850, although not for eastern-central Europe until the nineteenth century.207 The second series consists of revisions of the Maddison figures, generated for slightly different benchmark dates between 1300 and 1850, which currently cover a much smaller number of European economies.208 Steve Broadberry has argued that these revised figures, which incorporate much recent research, are more accurate than Maddison’s original estimates.209

All scholars who make use of these data series openly acknowledge that they have many weaknesses. Their lack of precision, limited coverage, and high level of aggregation are particularly problematic for territorially fragmented zones such as German-speaking central Europe and the Italian peninsula, where the institutional system changed with political frontiers. These problems also afflict Iberia and eastern-central Europe, where small regions followed very different institutions and economic trajectories. But in the absence of alternatives, these series provide the best available estimates of economic performance in different parts of pre-modern Europe.

Tables 9.5 and 9.6, together with Figure 9.3, show the two different series of per capita GDP estimates—the more comprehensive series compiled by Maddison and the partial but more accurate series summarized by Broadberry.210 The tables present European societies according to the strength of their guilds, using the criteria in Table 9.1. Societies with relatively strong guilds include Austria, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, and Spain. The Maddison series in Table 9.5 presents figures for all 7 economies in the “strong” category, whereas the revised series in Table 9.6 provides data for only four of them (Germany, Sweden, Portugal, and Spain). Societies with relatively weak guilds comprise the Northern Netherlands, the Southern Netherlands (modern Belgium), and England. Societies with guilds of intermediate strength comprise France, Italy, and Switzerland; the German Rhineland is unfortunately not disaggregated from the rest of Germany by any statistical series, so cannot be included in the intermediate category. No reliable revisions are available for Switzerland, so the “intermediate” category in Table 9.6 consists only of France and Italy.

TABLE 9.5: Estimated Per Capita GDP (Maddison Estimates), According to Strength of Guilds








Relatively weak guilds:

N. Netherlands














S. Netherlands







Intermediate strength guilds:






















Relatively strong guilds:


















































Averages (unweighted):

Relatively weak (n=3)







Intermediate (n=3)







Relatively strong (n=7)







Notes: Guilds categorized according to the criteria in Table 9.1 and discussion in text. Per capita GDP denominated in 1990$.

Source: Angus Maddison, Statistics on World Population, GDP and Per Capita GDP, 1–2008 AD. [].

TABLE 9.6: Estimated Per Capita GDP (Broadberry Estimates), According to Strength of Guilds











Relatively weak guilds:

N. Netherlands




















S. Netherlands










Intermediate strength guilds:





















Relatively strong guilds:










































Relatively weak (n=3)










Intermediate (n=2)










Relatively strong (n=4)










Notes: Guilds categorized according to the criteria in Table 9.1. Per capita GDP denominated in 1990$.

Source: For England, see Broadberry et al. 2015; for the Northern Netherlands Van Zanden and Van Leeuwen 2012 and Smits, Horlings and Van Zanden 2000; for the Southern Netherlands Buyst 2011; for Sweden Schön and Krantz 2012 and Schön and Krantz 2015; for Italy Malanima 2011; for Spain Alvarez-Nogal and Prados de la Escosura 2013; for Germany Pfister 2011; for France Ridolfi 2017, 284. Summarized (except for France) in Broadberry 2016, 24 (Table 2).

Both series show economies with weak guilds pulling ahead of those with strong ones around 1400 or 1500, the only difference being the precise timing. The Maddison estimates show all European economies with a similar per capita GDP in 1000, and still quite similar figures in 1500, but divergent trajectories thereafter: by 1600, economies with weak guilds were clearly ahead of those with intermediate and strong guilds, and after that the gap became ever wider. The Broadberry estimates, by contrast, show societies with strong guilds marginally ahead of those with weak ones as early as 1300; intermediate Italy was far ahead of both, while intermediate France was also slightly above average. By 1400, economies with weak guilds were well ahead of those with strong guilds and were pulling up fast on Italy and France with their intermediate guilds. From that point on, the gap between the rich economies with weak guilds and the poor economies with strong ones widened steadily. The average for France and Italy with their intermediate guilds stagnated or even declined from 1400 to 1600, although it remained ahead of the average for economies with strong guilds at every benchmark date. Both series thus show economies with weak guilds pulling ahead of those with strong guilds, with Broadberry’s series dating the divergence to 1400, while Maddison’s series shows it only from 1500.


FIGURE 9.3. Per Capita GDP according to Strength of Guilds in the Economy, 1000–1850

Source: See Tables 9.5 and 9.6.

It would be rash to place too much weight on these figures, which can only be regarded as approximate and in any case register just one measure of economic performance. But in the absence of better estimates, they yield the following tentative conclusions about how guild strength varied with economic performance.

First, European societies with relatively weak guilds saw comparatively rapid economic growth from the late medieval period onwards. The Southern Netherlands had one of the two fastest growing economies in Europe in the late medieval period, and continued to experience moderate growth thereafter. The Northern Netherlands grew rapidly after c. 1500 and became the richest country in Europe by 1600; it declined slightly after the end of the Dutch Golden Age in 1670, then stagnated at a high level, enjoying the highest per capita GDP in the continent in 1750, and still almost equalling England as late as 1800. England grew rapidly from c. 1500 onwards, became the first country to industrialize (in the late eighteenth century), and had the highest per capita GDP in Europe by 1800. In all three societies, as we have seen, guilds began to weaken definitively after 1500: in the Southern Netherlands, guild entry barriers were weakened in the early sixteenth century; in England, guilds declined in number between 1500 and 1600, were deprived of religious functions and revenues in the 1540s, and surrendered much internal cohesiveness and coercive power by 1600; in the Northern Netherlands, much of the largest industrial sector (textiles) lost its guilds in the mid to late sixteenth century.

Economic performance differed more modestly between societies with intermediate guilds and those with strong ones. A first possibility is that this is an artefact of data limitations in the intermediate category of guild strength, where revised per capita GDP estimates are available only for Italy and France. Reliable revisions for Switzerland are still lacking, and the German Rhineland with its intermediate guilds cannot be distinguished from other German polities with their strong guilds. A second possible explanation is that the Maddison estimates for these economies are accurate, but the causal relationships are obscured by underlying factors. A third possibility is that the pattern reflects a true causal relationship: guilds of intermediate strength may have imposed sufficient costs on the economy through conflict, evasion, uncertainty, rent-seeking, and rampant black markets, that the possibility of partially circumventing guild privileges brought only a modest improvement in economic performance. In terms of economic policy, Turgot in 1776 and the Estates General in 1791 may have been right: outright abolition of guilds, not incremental reform, was what was needed to kick an economy such as France onto a higher growth path. But this may be putting too much weight on fragile and aggregative data, which do not take account of the wide regional variation inside entities such as “France” (think of the gap between dynamic Lyon and stagnant Dijon), “Italy” (think of the gap between Florence and Sicily), “Switzerland” (think of the gap between Geneva and Bern), or “Germany” (think of the gap between the Rhineland and Württemberg).

A final, definitive conclusion is that strong guilds were not associated with high per capita GDP or rapid economic growth at any point between 1300 and 1850. Strong guilds may not have been definitively associated with economic failure before c. 1500, but they were never associated with economic success. This casts doubt on the notion that guilds generated net benefits for European economies, even in their medieval inception.

Epigraph sources: Judgment against the Merchant Taylors’ guild, quoted in Siegan 2001, 22; De la Court passage, as translated in De la Court and Campbell 1669 [1746], 63–4.

1 Allen 2001; Davids 2012; Fouquet and Broadberry 2015.

2 De Munck, Lourens, and Lucassen 2006; Mocarelli 2008.

3 Epstein 2008, 164.

4 De Munck, Lourens, and Lucassen 2006; Mocarelli 2008.

5 For the data on the Southern Netherlands, see De Munck, Lourens, and Lucassen 2006, 37 (Table 2.1). For Italy, see Mocarelli 2008, 165 (Table 2), combined with “Italian Guilds Database”, V1, coded by present author to follow periodization used in De Munck, Lourens, and Lucassen 2006, 37 (Table 2.1).

6 De Munck, Lourens, and Lucassen 2006, 37 (Table 2.1).

7 Ehmer 1998 [Guilds], 133 (Table 1), recalculated to follow periodization used in De Munck, Lourens, and Lucassen 2006, 37 (Table 2.1), on assumption that guilds were established evenly across each time-period given.

8 Faragó 2002, 258 (Table 2).

9 Mocarelli 2008, 162.

10 De Munck, Lourens, and Lucassen 2006, 70.

11 Desmet and Parente 2014.

12 Epstein and Prak 2008, 21.

13 Mocarelli 2008, esp. 166–68.

14 Faragó 2002; Ehmer 1998.

15 Komlos 1989; Schulze 2007.

16 Soly 2006, 15.

17 Becher 1688, 114.

18 De Munck, Lourens, and Lucassen 2006, 64.

19 Mocarelli 2008, esp. 166–68.

20 Desmet and Parente 2014.

21 Epstein 2008, 164.

22 See, e.g., Truant 1986, 146–62.

23 See Carlin 1994, 247–49, for cogent arguments against regarding early modern English guild masters as either “capitalists” or “workers”.

24 Soly 2006, 19.

25 MacDonald 2007, 32, 34, 52, 68, 99, 112.

26 Ogilvie 1997, 431–36; Ogilvie 1996 [Social Institutions], 30–33; Ogilvie 1996 [Beginnings], 285–90.

27 Fischer 1966, 104 and passim.

28 Ianeva 2002, 281.

29 Halpern-Pereira 1994, 759.

30 Quoted in Pugliese 1991, 112–13.

31 Dambruyne 1998, 52, 61–62; Deceulaer 2008, 21; Dewilde 2015, 94, 98–99.

32 Van Steensel 2016, 48; Whyte 1995, 65, 69–70, 192–93.

33 Shaw 2006, 134–35.

34 Van Steensel 2016, 47.

35 Rodocanachi 1894, I:349.

36 Caracausi 2014, 144, 151.

37 Pfister 2004 [Craft Guilds], 304.

38 Hafter 2007, 124, 140; Poni, Gervais, and Gervais 1998, 599–600.

39 Unwin 1908, 262.

40 Quoted in Unwin 1904, 30.

41 Davies and Saunders 2004, 64–65.

42 Lipson 1915, I: 383; Johnson 1922, IV: 96–102; Girtin 1964, 244; Archer 1991, 114–15; Carlin 1994, 226.

43 Unwin 1908, 263–64.

44 Quoted in Carlin 1994, 239.

45 Brenner 2016, 183–84.

46 Faivre 1949, 139–40.

47 Quoted in Palliser 1972, 95 (spelling modernized by present author).

48 Smith 1776, Book IV Chapter VIII, p. 145, para. c27.

49 Ogilvie 1997, 314–15 (seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Württemberg); Schmölz-Häberlein 2004, 90 (eighteenth-century Baden-Durlach); Kluge 2007, 335–44 (medieval and early modern Germany); Werner 1861, 95 (seventeenth-century Bohemia); Pestalozzi 1829, 93 (nineteenth-century Zürich).

50 Schmölz-Häberlein 2004, 90.

51 Ogilvie 1997, 314–15.

52 Sczesny 2004, 73–74 (eighteenth-century eastern Swabia); MacKay 2006, 42 (early modern Spain); Haemers 2014, 386–88 (early modern Southern Netherlands); Liddy and Haemers 2013, 802 (early modern England and the Southern Netherlands); Pestalozzi 1829, 94 (nineteenth-century Switzerland).

53 Lipson 1915, I:328.

54 Quoted in Klein 1932, 180 n. 1.

55 Kluge 2007, 95.

56 Martz 1995, 121–22.

57 MacKay 2006, 144.

58 Rosen 2008, 69.

59 As a reminder, throughout this book, “significant” means that the null hypothesis of no difference cannot be rejected at the 0.05 level.

60 Buchner 2004, 218–19.

61 Lipson 1915, I: 364.

62 Kluge 2007, 335–44; Ogilvie 1997, 314–15; Rosser 2015, 140–41, 174.

63 Quoted in Archer 1991, 115–16.

64 Stasavage 2012, 2, 5, and passim.

65 Gagliardo 1991, 4–7; Whaley 2012, I:26, 250, 510, 532–33. There were at most 200 such cities in the late Middle Ages, 85 in 1521, 65 in 1555, and around 50 from 1648 to 1803. See also Anon. 1866, 116.

66 Eitel 1972, 81, 83.

67 Sobania 1991, 189–91.

68 Franceschi and Molà 2012; Caracausi 2014; Ammannati 2014.

69 Whyte 1989, 232–34; Whyte 1995, 170–71; MacDonald 2007, 32, 34, 52, 68, 111.

70 Vann 1984, 101, 172, 182, 236; Ogilvie 1999, 188–93; Ogilvie and Carus 2014, 420–22.

71 Edgren 1997 [Craftsmen], 135; Edgren 2002, 265.

72 Van Houtte 1968, 96; Heirwegh 1989, 365; Deceulaer 1996, 187; Deceulaer and Panhuysen 2000, 97; Davids and De Munck 2014, 192.

73 Davids 2007, 66.

74 Palliser 1972, 87–88; Palliser 1979, 88–90.

75 Archer 1988, 23; Archer 1991, 135–38, 139 (quotation).

76 Archer 1991, 144.

77 Hoffmann 1905, 6–10; Raiser 1978, 41–43, 47; Ogilvie 1997, 73; Ogilvie 1999, 190–91.

78 Fairchilds 1993, 231.

79 Palliser 1972, 88–90.

80 Bacon 1621/1876, 196.

81 Gadd and Wallis 2008, 292.

82 Corteguera 2002, ix, 8, 10–11, 13–14.

83 Hanson 1981, 50–51; Rodrigues 1993, 23; Disney 2009, I:123.

84 Soly 2006, 4.

85 Eitel 1972, 83.

86 Abelshauser 1990, 124.

87 Eisenberg 1991, 508.

88 Fairchilds 1993, 231.

89 Halpern-Pereira 1994, 759.

90 Quoted in Siegan 2001, 22.

91 Quoted in Siegan 2001, 24.

92 Quoted in Siegan 2001, 23–24.

93 Quoted in Bottomley 2017, 258 n. 22.

94 On Douai, see Howell 1994; on Nuremberg, see Lehnert 1983; on Leiden, see DuPlessis and Howell 1982.

95 Soboul 1964, 462.

96 Ehmer 1998 [Guilds], 121.

97 Abelshauser 1990, 123.

98 Vann 1984, 101, 172, 182, 236; Ogilvie 1999, 188–93; Ogilvie and Carus 2014, 420–22.

99 Corteguera 2002, ix, 8, 10–11, 13–14; Hanson 1981, 50–51; Rodrigues 1993, 23; Disney 2009, I:123.

100 Lucassen and Prak 1998, 71–74.

101 Lis and Soly 2008, 96; Deceulaer and Panhuysen 2000, 97; Davids and De Munck 2014, 192.

102 Clark and Slack 1976, 39–40, 109–10; Coleman 1977, 73–75; Stevenson 1984, 34–37; Muldrew 1993, 175; Boldorf 2009, 193; Walker 1985, 5.

103 Lis and Soly 2008, 98–99.

104 Palliser 1972, 107–108.

105 Quoted in Unwin 1904, 30.

106 Archer 1991, 114–15; Carlin 1994, 226–27.

107 Carlin 1994, 239.

108 Abelshauser 1990, 124.

109 Ehmer 1997, 176.

110 Lis and Soly 2008, 110.

111 Deceulaer 1996, 189–202.

112 Archer 1991, 114–15; Carlin 1994, 226–27.

113 Enciso 1982, 1–3; Thomson 1996, 88, 90; Torras 1998 [Small Towns], 92, 95–96; Molas Ribalta 2002, 216; Casado Alonso 2004, 314; Navarro 2013, 104.

114 Raiser 1978.

115 Edgren 2002, 235, 239, 241.

116 Ehmer 2001 [Artisans], 819.

117 Crittall 1962, n. 1–4, 16–18.

118 Richardson 2005, 172–74.

119 Muldrew 1993, 175.

120 Yoneyama 2018, 21; Hill 2002, 205.

121 Gross 1890, 52; Clark and Slack 1972, 30, 32–34; Clark and Slack 1976, 39–40, 109–10; Coleman 1977, 73–75; Stevenson 1984, 34–37; Snell 1985, 268–69; Walker 1985, 5; Abelshauser 1990, 122; Muldrew 1993, 175; Pollard 1997, 106, 225, 234, 238, 245–46, 266; Hill 2002, 28–30, 36–37, 205; Boldorf 2009, 193.

122 Lucassen and Prak 1998, 164.

123 De Munck, Lourens, and Lucassen 2006, 70.

124 Davids 1996; Davids 2003; Lucassen and Prak 1998, 64–65.

125 Rasterhoff 2012, 134, 234.

126 Soly 2006, 15.

127 Lucassen and Prak 1998, 68.

128 Deceulaer 2008, 22.

129 Quoted in Heckscher 1935/1994, I:143.

130 Ehmer 2001 [Artisans], 819.

131 Heckscher 1935/1994, I: 144; Truant 1986, 135.

132 Bossenga 1988, 698–99.

133 Heckscher 1935/1994, I:143.

134 Heckscher 1935/1994, I:144.

135 Horn 2015, 30.

136 Belfanti 1993, 262, 266; Maitte 2014, 35.

137 Demo 2014, 91–92.

138 Clark and Slack 1972, 11, 15–16, 30, 32–34; De Vries 1976, 98–102; Ogilvie 2011, 187–88.

139 Whyte 1989, 232–34; Whyte 1995, 170–71.

140 De Vries 1974, 48.

141 DuPlessis 1997, 110.

142 Munro 1997, 87.

143 De Vries 1974, 48–49.

144 Unger 1978, 64, 84–86, 102.

145 Clark and Slack 1972, 36; Beier and Finlay 1986, 26–27, 141–67; Archer 1991, 132.

146 Clark and Slack 1972, 11, 15–16, 30, 32–34.

147 Zell 1994; Heaton 1965; Walker 1985, 5.

148 Clark and Slack 1972, 11, 30, 32–33; Palliser 1979, 210; Hill 2002, 28–30, 36–37, 205.

149 Clark and Slack 1972, 11, 30, 32–33.

150 Wolff 1979, 39; Kisch 1964; Kisch 1981, esp. 117; Reith 1986; Ogilvie 1997, 415–66; Ogilvie 1996 [Beginnings], 285–90.

151 Freudenberger 1966, 184; Cerman 1993.

152 Enciso 1982; Thomson 1991, here 74; Thomson 1996, 90–91; Torras 1986, 3; Torras 1991, 96.

153 Poni 1982 [A Proto-Industrial City], 5; see also Poni 1982 [Maß], 27; Poni 1985, 313; Belfanti 1993, 255 (quotation).

154 Whyte 1989, 234.

155 Tanner 1986, 452; Pfister 1992, 210–17; Pfister 1996, 138–39, 142, 152.

156 Engrand 1979, 63, 68; Guignet 1979, 28; Deyon 1981, 59; Thomson 1982; Johnson 1982; Kriedte 1982, 46–47; Lewis 1993, 7–10.

157 Ogilvie 1997, 412–37.

158 Ehmer 1998 [Guilds], 123–24; Ogilvie 1997, 412–37; Kluge 2007, 62; Simon-Muscheid 1993, 99; Pfister 2004 [Craft Guilds], 292.

159 Unwin 1904, 147; Walker 1985, 5.

160 De Munck, Lourens, and Lucassen 2006, 37 (urban guilds), 57 (village guilds). According to Lucassen and Prak 1998, 64, “about 95%” of Dutch guilds were in towns.

161 De Munck, Lourens, and Lucassen 2006, 57.

162 Shephard 1986, 123.

163 Lis and Soly 2008, 99; Ehmer 1998 [Guilds], 123–24; Kluge 2007, 62, 75–77; Simon-Muscheid 1993, 99; Sczesny 2004, 72–77; Pfister 2004 [Craft Guilds], 292.

164 Ehmer 2008, 143–45.

165 Reith 2002, 47–48.

166 Torras 1998 [Small Towns], 92.

167 Enciso 1982, 1–3.

168 Casado Alonso 2004, 314.

169 Molas Ribalta 2002, 216.

170 Torras 1998 [Small Towns], 92.

171 Torras 1998 [Small Towns], 92, 96.

172 Petmezas 1991, 589.

173 Ianeva 2002, 271.

174 Bácskai 1997, 203.

175 On the assumption that there is an inevitable opposition between corporative and hierarchical institutions, see Putnam, Leonardi, and Nanetti 1993, 123–25, 167, 171–78, 181; La Porta, Lopez-de-Silanes, Shleifer, and Vishny 1997. For criticisms, see Dennison and Ogilvie 2007.

176 Kemble 1849, II:310–11.

177 Van Bavel 2010, 69, 112, 122, 386.

178 Rosser 2015, 195.

179 Lindström 2000, 188; Edgren 2002, 241–42.

180 Kaplan 1981, 260; Fairchilds 1993, 231–32; Coffin 1994, 779; Horn 2015, 24–56.

181 Bossenga 1988, 698–69.

182 Quoted in Yante 1994, 408 n. 127.

183 Ehmer 1998 [Guilds], 125.

184 Quoted in Mastboom 1994, 67.

185 Hundert 1992, xi; Klein and Ogilvie 2015, Table 3.

186 On the seigneurial authorities’ stance towards the guilds in Opatów, see Hundert 1992, 33–34, 43, 47–49, 54, 65, 86, 135, 143; in Polish subject towns more generally, see Hundert 1993, 179–80.

187 Klíma 1959, 37.

188 Bácskai 1997, 200, 203.

189 Edwards and Ogilvie 2012.

190 Briggs 2009.

191 Muzzi 2000, 280.

192 Epstein 2000, 101–103.

193 Horn 2004, 31; Horn 2012, 154, 158; Horn 2015, 24–56.

194 Rasterhoff 2012, 53.

195 Palliser 1972, 87–88; Palliser 1979, 88–90.

196 Clark and Slack 1972, 36; Beier and Finlay 1986, 26–27, 141–67; Rosser 1989, 122 and passim; Archer 1991, 132; Davies 1998, 148.

197 Allen 2011, 423.

198 Horn 2015, 28–29.

199 Kluge 2007, 125.

200 On Germany, see Ogilvie 1992; Ogilvie 1999. On Austria, see Ehmer 1997, 178; Ehmer 1998 [Guilds], 127; Ehmer 2000, 207.

201 Allen 2011, 423–24.

202 Shephard 1986, 111–12.

203 See the detailed discussion of this in the context of specific Parisian crafts in Fairchilds 1993, 232ff.

204 Dambruyne 1998, 330–34; Boone 2005, 13–16; Lis and Soly 2008, 110; Van Steensel 2016, 43.

205 Clark and Slack 1972, 36–37; Beier and Finlay 1986, 26–27, 141–67; Rappaport 1989, 23–60, 162–214; Archer 1991, 100–48.

206 Clark and Slack 1972, 11, 15–16, 30, 32–34.

207 See the data and documentation at

208 For England, see Broadberry et al. 2015; for the Northern Netherlands, Van Zanden and Van Leeuwen 2012 and Smits, Horlings and Van Zanden 2000; for Belgium, Buyst 2011; for Sweden, Schön and Krantz 2012 and Schön and Krantz 2015; for Italy, Malanima 2011; for Spain, Alvarez-Nogal and Prados de la Escosura 2013; for Germany, Pfister 2011. Summarized in Broadberry 2016, 24 (Table 2).

209 Broadberry 2016.

210 The French series is from Ridolfi 2017, 284, too recent to be included in Broadberry 2016.