Guilds or associations of
The growth of the medieval cities implied the
development of craftsmanship and an increase in the number of craftsmen.
These included, among others, weavers, coopers, bakers, brassworkers,
carpenters, dyers, etc. Most craftsmen worked in textile production.
Craftsmen made all their products by hand and they
used few tools. They worked in small workshops, located in the
house of the owner, and had few workers.
Throughout the 10th century, craftsmen started to
form associations based on religious and charitable principles. In the
l2th century, the first guilds appeared. Each guild exercised a
monopoly over their trade and had a statute, which had to be
sworn by a the members of the guild, where their obligations and rights
The statutes established the rules. The guild distributed
the necessary raw materials equally, strictly controlled the
number of employees, supervised the quality of the product and
set the prices.
The statutes also organised a system to provide
assistance to the members, that 15 to say, they helped the sick, widows or
orphans and they built hospitals using the donations of the members.
Guild Hall in Conventry (UK)
The organisation of trades
Each trade was divided into three categories of
craftsmen: master, skilled craftsman and apprentice.
The master was the owner of the workshop, tools
and raw material. He made a profit or a loss. Masters directed the
The skilled craftsman was the expert worker
who had a salary in exchange for his services.
The apprentice was a young man who wanted to
learn the trade. He worked for several years but did not earn any
kind of salary. As a rule, there was only one apprentice in each
workshop, and he lived in the master’s house and was supported by him.
In the beginning, a skilled worker could become a master
if he proved his skills by passing a hard exam. However, towards the end of
the 13th century, it became more difficult to pass the exams, until it
reached a point where the masters created dynasties, in other words, their
sons inherited their posts, and promotion was stopped. It became obligatory to
create a master piece, which was very expensive and required a huge effort
from the candidates rendering it impossible for a skilled worker who had to
work in a workshop.