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Guilds became quite popular and numerous in Europe during the revival of trade which accompanied the Crusades. Guilds fell into two classes: merchants and craft.
  1. Merchant Guilds - In each town there was a guild of merchants who were bound together by oath. Each guild had its own meeting place, the guild-hall. Here meetings were held periodically to discuss matters of policy. Merchant guild members were subject to restrictions. They were permitted to sell their goods only at stipulated places and for fixed prices. They were forbidden to sell adulterated goods. Forestalling, regrating, engrossing, short weight, and selling goods above the fixed price were forbidden. Guild members helped one another in case of misfortune - sick members were visited and the guilds provided for the burial of deceased members.
  2. Craft Guilds - The functions of a craft guild were to regulate wages, fix prices and conditions of sale, determine hours and conditions of labour, and inspect the workmanship and quality of materials. Craft guilds also supervised the training of perspective guild members. A young man was bound to work for a master as an apprentice. During this period (7 to 12 years) he worked for the master for no wages, or for small wages toward the end of the term. The master fed, clothed, and housed the apprentice and taught him the trade.

    After the term of service, the apprentice became a journeyman - that is, he was a free man and could work for daily wages. If he passed an entrance examination, he could become a master workman and open a shop of his own. Towards the end of the Middle Ages, the social distinction between a master and a journeyman became quite sharp. The opportunities for a journeyman to become a master also became much less.

    Craft guilds performed many social funtions for their members. They played an active part in public feasts, ceremonials, and processions. Guilds frequently conducted schools for the young, and promoted civic projects such as hospitals, street-paving, and the like. Each guild had its patron saint and frequently had special chapels and its own religious festivals.

Contributed by Gifford, Katya
11 July 2001


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