During the 1100's CE, merchants, artists, bankers,
and other professionals grouped themselves together in a business
associations called guilds. The bankers belonged to the bankers guild.
The bakers belonged to the bakers guild. And so on.
of the Guilds: The purpose of the guilds was to
keep each member's territory exclusive. If you were a baker, your guild
promised you a certain amount of space before another baker could build
a shop. As well, if your shop burned down, the guild would care for you
and your family. Guilds also arranged social occasions and festivals for
for Guild Membership: In exchange, guilds had strict rules
that you, as a guild member, had to follows.
Control: The guild decided on the price of each item. All
bakers, for example, changed the same price for a loaf of bread, the
price set by the guild.
Control: All workers had to be paid the same, so that the
best workers could not be enticed away with better wages somewhere
Control: Everyone had to satisfy the quality standards
set by their respective guild. No one was allowed to sell shoddy
Control: No guild member could advertise their wares. The
guilds wanted people to think that all wares offered the same
quality, no matter what shop sold them.
the Ladder of Success: People could work their way
up to positions of power, and ultimately own their own shop.
At the top of the ladder were people who owned their own shops.
Owners were called "masters".
After he had learned something about his craft, a man
could move up to the level of journeyman. A journeyman was paid a
little money, along with free food and a place to sleep. He could
only work under a master. To become a master, a journeyman had to
submit a sample of his work - a "masterpiece" - to a
committee of masters in his guild. If they approved his work, he
could set up shop in a place assigned to him by the guild, and
become a master himself.
An apprentice was at the bottom of the ladder. During the period an
apprentice was learning a skill, he received food, a place to sleep,
and training, but he was not paid.
The Guilds made sure that all shop owners paid taxes to the
king. This kept the kings on their side. Soon, kings began to depend
upon shop owners for many of their needs, including income from the
taxes this new middle class paid the kingdom. Kings, and in some cases
nobles, granted towns a charter that said they had the right to control
their own business and affairs as long as they continued to pay taxes to
whomever had granted the charter.
Guilds: As the towns grew, guild leaders realized there was a
need for lawyers and courts. If they were going to rule themselves, they
needed a system of rule. But almost no one knew how to read and write.
To fix this, one of the towns created a "university", a school
of higher learning. The university was not a single place. School was
held in rented rooms and in courtyards. Books were scarce. But classes
met on a regular schedule. Not just anyone could be a student. To study
at university, you had to pass a test and be accepted.
By the end of the 1200's, teacher guilds
(universities) had sprung up all over Europe. There were over a thousand
students at any one time studying Roman Law, Latin classics, the
teachings of Islamic scholars, and the philosophies of Aristotle.
Students who attended the universities were not the sons
of nobles. They were the sons of the new middle class. When literature
and art were added to the curriculum, there was clearly a stirring, the
beginning of the rebirth of culture. The success of the universities
showed that things were changing, and changing rapidly.
Medieval Craftsman - Guilds in the Middle Ages
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