By Hammer And Hand All Arts Do Stand: The Medieval Guild

By | November 15, 2019

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A smith at work. Source: (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Labor and trade during the European Middle Ages were regulated by guilds. This system of labor was in many ways the medieval equivalent of a monopoly. They reached the peak of their influence between the 11th and 16th centuries and influenced the art, architecture, economy, and society of the Middle Ages.

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A medieval market. Source: (Wikimedia Commons)

 Prior to the guild system, merchants lived isolated, itinerant lives, conducting their own transactions and moving from village to village. In the 10th century, towns, which had been greatly reduced during the Early Middle, or Dark Ages, began to flourish again. Merchants then were able to start to ban together finding that in aggregate they had more influence than as individuals. This gave rise to merchant guilds

Guilds developed in the 10th century after the early, disruptive period of the Early Middle Ages when towns began to flourish again. A guild’s goal was to control all the commerce connected to craft or trade in a town or region. Merchant guilds were one type in which associations controlled long-distance trade. Membership in these types of guilds was comprised of usually the richest in a locality.