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The Rise of Guilds  
Last Updated    12/11/2007     12/10/2007

Around the 1100s, merchants, artisans, and workers formed guilds
Guilds made sure that their members were treated equally.
Each craft had its own guild.
They lived and worked in the same area of town.

Craft Guilds

Women Workers
They had their own trade associations.

Guild Workers
Workers could not compete with each other.
They could not advertise.
Each member worked the same number of hours,
they hired the same number of workers.
The paid the same wages.

Guild Power
Guilds controlled all business and trade in the town.
Only members of the guild could buy, sell, or make goods there.
The guilds decided the prices.
If your goods were poorly made, or if you cheated in business you had to pay a fine.
They could be expelled from the guild.
The guild took care of its members.
Unemployed workers were given food.
Families of dead members were taken care of.
Guilds were the center of social life.
The Guild sponsored entertainment.

Membership in a Guild
To become a member of a guild you first became an apprentice.
You were a trainee in a trade for two to seven years.
Masters taught the apprentices to read and write.
The lived with and obeyed the master.
Masters provided the apprentice with clothing and a salary.
The journeyman worked under a master for a wage.
The journeyman would take a test to become a master.
Guild officials gave the test.
Journeymen  made and presented a "masterpiece."
If they passed they were a master.
The master could make their own goods.
They could have their own shop.
They could train their own apprentices.

Seven Great Guilds Of Florence, Italy
In the 14th century the guilds of Florence, Italy were divided into the seven great guilds.
These were called the Arti Maggiori (greater guilds).
Both the members of the greater guilds known as the popolo grasso (fat people).
The great guilds included the wealthiest and most powerful men of the city and were comprised of:

Fourteen Lesser Guilds
The fourteen lesser guilds included smaller businessmen and craftsmen.
These lesser guilds were often called the craft guilds.
These 14 lesser guilds called the Arti Minori (minor guilds).
The members of the lesser guilds known as the popolo minuto (little people) could vote.
Secondhand dealers
Sellers of salt, oil and cheese
Girdle makers
There were many other crafts than are identified here.
They formed their own organizations but belonged to the same larger guild.

Guilds Challenged
By the 1400s, many merchants and artisans began to challenge the control of the guilds.
The merchants felt the guilds kept them from increasing trade and profit.
It was harder for apprentices to become masters.
Masters grouped together and hired unskilled workers instead of apprentices.

Greenblatt, Miriam, and Lemmo, Peter. Human Heritage A World History. Columbus, Ohio: McGraw-Hill, 2001.

"Guild Hall: Renaissance Guilds." 12 Dec. 2007.

Ross, David. "Medieval England-Daily Life in Medieval Towns." Britain Express. 11 Dec 2007.