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4. CRAFT-GILDS . . . . 5O-IOO





Doctor Juris utriusque et Philosophies.



I All rights reserved. ]

Notice by the Publishers.


This Essay is the first and only one in English reviewing the whole subject
of Gilds, those institutions so important in the Middle Ages, so well illus-
trating the self-organizing and self-governing power of England, where Gilds first
arose, and whence they were imitated on the Continent.

This Essay also contains the first and only historical investigation yet made
into The Origin of Trades -Unions,— institutions whose vast importance the legis-
lature is slowly recognizing, which have exercised so powerful a control on Labour
in the past century, and must exercise a yet more powerful influence on the future
development of Industry. It is time that the rise of these Institutions should
be treated historically, and not be made the occasion of groundless speculation.
On one writer's dealing with this subject, Dr. Brentano remarks, at p. ioi, note i :
— " Mr. Thornton's chapter On the Origin of Trades -Unions (in The Fortnightly
Review, New Series, vol. ii. p. 688, and in his work On Labour and its Claims)
bears the same relation to the real origin of Trade-Unions, as Rousseau's Contrat
Social to the historical origin of States."

The present Essay was written to serve as a General Introduction to
" English Gilds : the Original Ordinances of more than One Hundred Early
English Gilds, &c, A. D. 1389," edited, for the Early English Text Society,
by the late Mr. Toulmin Smith.

From the Report of that Society for January, 1870, the following passage
on those " Gilds" and Dr. Brentano's Essay is extracted : — "As the subject of the
book, rather than its language, is the important part of it, it became necessary
to procure for the work a survey of the whole history of associated labour, in
order to know what part of the field these 'English Gilds' occupied, and what
relation they bore to the old Gilds, the Religious Gilds, the Gilds-Merchant, the
Craft-Gilds, and the modern Trades -Unions. Most happily, the scholar pointed
out by our best-informed English students of the subject, as the fittest man to
undertake the task, Dr. Lujo Brentano (Doctor Juris Utriusque et Philosophise), at
once acceded to our request to prepare such a survey, and he has in a masterly
Essay, in five parts, 'On the History and Development of Gilds,' written with
true German thoroughness, reviewed the whole subject — as well for England as
the Continent, — and this for the first time in our language, as no such other
English work exists. We are therefore now able to see our Gilds in their true
light, not as isolated insular institutions, but as part of the great social system
of the Middle Ages ; and the debt of us all to Dr. Brentano is great, for the
generous way in which he, a stranger to all of us, has placed his wide learning,
and the results of his personal searches here and abroad, at the service of the
Society. He has shown that in him the old brotherly Gild-feeling to fellow-
workers still exists. Of the book as a whole, the Committee must record their
conviction that no more valuable contribution has yet been made to the history
of Association in England."



op Lincoln's inn, barrister- at-law,

one of the
truest friends to working-men in england,




In order to study the English labour-question, I joined, in the
summer of 1868, my master, Dr. Engel, Director of the Royal
Statistical Bureau at Berlin, on his journey to the English
manufacturing districts. But after a few weeks' inquiry, I
was convinced that a thorough knowledge of the position of the
English working- classes would require a sojourn of months in
their country. I therefore resolved to remain longer in England.
Working-men's Associations of every kind, and the History of
Labour in England, became the chief objects of my study. At
last, in May 1869, I left England, with my portfolio full of the
materials I had collected. But I had scarcely returned home,
when I was asked by Mr. Furnivall to write a General Introduc-
tion to Mr. Toulmin Smith's work on English Gilds, which he
had left unfinished at his death. As I unfortunately had not
had the honour of knowing Mr. Smith personally, and therefore
knew nothing of his ideas as to Gilds, I at first hesitated to accede
to Mr. Furnivall's request. My scruples increased when I con-
sidered that I was to undertake a work which ought to have
been done by a man of great learning and repute. And, indeed,
now that my work is finished, I am so fully alive to its many
deficiencies, that I greatly fear my undertaking this work will
be thought by many, too daring. But I hope the fairness of the
reader will not let him measure my essay by his conception of
what such an outline as the present ought to be. I can only
say that for many years past I have been deeply interested in
this subject, that what I offer here to the reader is the result of
much hard work and of many laborious personal researches in
Libraries and Record-Offices, and that I have put forth my
results in the best way I could, seeing the short time allowed
me to write this essay in.


The reason why I finally resolved to comply with Mr.
Furnivall's request, notwithstanding my hesitation, was, that
1 owe great thanks to my English friends who had drawn his
attention to me. I had learnt so much from them during my
stay in England, that when an occasion presented itself to repay
them in some way by a work which might be of use to them,
I felt obliged to disregard any personal considerations. On
acceding to Mr. Furnivall's desire, I observed however, that I
must write my essay quite independently, without consideration
as to what Mr. Toulmin Smith would have said in his Introduc-
tion. He would probably have dwelt more fully on English
Gilds only, and would have brought forward more direct infor-
mation as to them than I should be able to do. I, on the contrary,
was requested by Mr. Furnivall to .treat on Continental Gilds
as well as English. And I complied with his request with the
more pleasure, as I believed that illustrations from the Continent
might often help students to understand the development of
English Gilds, where clear and direct accounts of them are
wanting. Often, indeed, the Gilds on the Continent differed in
development and circumstances from those in England, as I have
repeatedly pointed out in this essay. But I strongly believe
that the continual intercourse between the towns of the several
trading countries of the Middle Ages, kept up especially by the
Hanse Towns, may not have been without influence in producing
a general similarity of development of burgensic life in them all.

What I offer to the reader in the following pages is by no
means a history of Gilds, complete and exhaustive. My desire has
been simply to give a clear idea as to what the various kinds of
Gilds were, and to sketch in free outlines how each kind of Gilds
originated, grew powerful, and degenerated; on which the Gilds
of another class of citizens took their place. I have always taken
special care to point out the analogies between the old Gilds
and those existing in our days among working-men, the Trade-
Unions ; and I shall indeed consider it the greatest reward for all
my labour spent on this work, if it contributes to set the Trade-
Unions in a truer light.

Throughout the whole essay I have most conscientiously re-


ferred to the sources of my statements, and to the various authors
to whom I am indebted. I am very sorry that, when writing
the essay, I was not acquainted with the works of Mr. Toulmin
Smith quoted by Miss Smith in her excellent Introduction.

Before concluding, I wish to express my sincere thanks to all
those who have helped me in my work, especially to Mr.
Furnivall. He has with great zeal and kindness revised the
translation of my essay and the proofs ; and has besides added,
from early English literature, a few notes in illustration of
my text. He also procured from Professor Stubbs the com-
munication as to bondmen in towns, in the Additional Note 3 ;
and has drawn my attention to a few points which wanted
further explanation for the English reader. I have made some
additional notes on these points, which follow the Preface, namely,
as to the origin of Gilds, as to my appellation Religious Gilds,
and as to the companies of bond-handicraftsmen. I wish to
thank, besides, especially Mr. J. W. van Rees Hoets, M.A., of
Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and the other friends of Mr. Furnivall
and myself who have helped in the translation of parts of this
essay. It was hard work that they performed, and they did it


ASCHAFFENBURG, Jan. 2lSt, 1870.



t. Note to p. 10, as to the Origin of Gilds.

Mr. Furnivall asks me to make much more emphatic my statement
as to England's being the birthplace of Gilds. He thinks besides, that
my derivation of the Gilds from the family, contradicts the supposition
of the origin of Gilds in England. He writes accordingly to me : —
" I certainly suppose your Part I. to mean that the Gilds were
developed well in early times — indeed, on the Continent — and brought
over here with the Anglo-Saxon settlers. You do not say so in exact
words ; but your terms as to family-life, and neighbours meeting
at sacrificial feasts, imply an earlier stage of civilization, more of a
growth in Saxon wilds, than the (more or less) organized bodies of
immigrants here were in, or had."

Now, I wish to declare here most emphatically that I consider
England the birthplace of Gilds. But, at the same time, I wish to deny
quite as emphatically, that what I have said on p. 5 as to the family,
implies a stage of civilization before the immigration of the Anglo-
Saxons 1 . I refer here once more, as I did in the note on p. 5, for my
statements as to the importance of the family among the German
tribes, to the work of the greatest living master in German history,
to the Deutsche Verfassungsgeschichte by Waitz. The reader will
find there, that even after the German tribes had settled in fixed
abodes, the family was of importance even within the community,
which was founded then on the mere local relation of neighbour-
hood ; aud that this importance still continued when the division
into hundreds not only existed, but was even prevalent. When
the community based on local relations, and no more on kinship,
came into existence, all the political interests fell at once into its
sphere. But all that regards the relations of private law — the legal
protection of life, limbs, and property — was still for a long time provided
for by the family. The Frith-Gilds, however, were only to take the
place of the family as to these relations of private law, and not as to
its long extinct political importance. The Frith-Gilds, therefore, did
not come into existence contemporaneously with the origin of the
community based on local relations, and with the formation of the
State, but only later, when the family began to lose its importance
in matters of private law also. But the family had undoubtedly still
this latter importance when the Anglo-Saxons came to England ; this

1 " But pe Saxons acorded for no J>ynge

pat p e Anglys schuld be J»er kyng ;

pey hadde wel leuere, pe Saxons seyd,

pat pe lond were in partis leyd,

pan pe Anglys of pe out ildes

Schulde be chef of alle J>er gyldes."
1338 a.d. Eobert Manning of Brunne's Stori of Fnglande, ii. 511, 1. 14741-6. ed.
F. J. F. 1870. (He is speaking of the settling of the Angles in East-Anglia.)


is proved by the very laws of Ina and Alfred which I speak of on
p. 10. According to them, the paternal and maternal relatives of an
offender are responsible in the first degree for his crime.

2. Note to pp. 22, 23, on the name " Religious Gilds."

As I see from a note added by Mr. Furnivall on p. 23, I was
wrong in my supposition (see p. 22) as to the reason which induced
Mr. Toulmin Smith to change the hitherto usual name " Reli-
gious" into " Social" Gilds. But Mr. Furnivall is equally mistaken as
to my reasons for maintaining the old appellation. As he thought,
however, that these reasons were to be sought for in connexion with
the fact of my being a Roman-Catholic, and as he has even asked me
to state this fact to my readers, in order to caution them against my
prejudices, I wish only, while doing this, to add a few words more on
the real reasons for my calling these Gilds " Religious."

Now, to call the said Gilds " Religious " because of their ornament
of a saint's name w T ould seem to me quite as " monstrous " as to
Mr. T. Smith or to Mr. Furnivall. If this had been my reason, I
should certainly call by the same name all or most of the other Gilds in
the Middle Ages, besides those in question, as well as the Trade-Union of
the Knights of St. Crispin in Massachusetts, referred to the other day
by the Spectator. This would simply be to ridicule the word
" religion." I took this word in a much larger sense — in the sense it
had when the old Gilds existed. I fully agree with Mr. T. Smith, that
the objects of the said Gilds were social ones. But the exercise of these
very social duties, to which the Gild brethren were bound by the Gild
statutes — mutual assistance, the aid of the poor, of the helpless, the
sick, of strangers, pilgrims, and prisoners, the burial of the dead, and
even the keeping of schools and schoolmasters — was considered, in the
time when these Gilds existed, as an "exercise of religion," obsequium
religionis, as Hincmar calls it (see pp. 18, 19). These deeds were con-
sidered but the practice of the religious maxim, " Love thy neighbour
as thyself;" and most of them were taught to the people of the Middle
Ages in a classification invented by the scholastics \ as the opera cor-
poralia misericordio3. Now, it can be easily understood that the
people who considered the objects of these Gilds as " religious," gave
the same name to the Gilds themselves which pursued these objects.
In maintaining this name, I simply followed the example set by the Pro-
testants as well as Roman-Catholics of all countries who have hitherto
written on the subject. My reason was partially that I thought a
historical treatise ought to give its subject its historical name ; but espe-
cially, as I pointed out on p. 22, that I feared that to call these Gilds
"Social" Gilds, might mislead men to the opinion that the other kinds
of Gilds were based on other than the same social principles on which
these Gilds rest. How the bad morals of the Roman clergy in the four-
teenth century in England can prevent any one from calling the Gilds

1 They founded it on Matt. xxv. See S. Thomce Summa Theol. ii. 2. qu. 32.
art. 2.


existing among the laity from the days of Hincmar to the Reformation
" Religious," I am at a loss to understand. If the clergy were so little
religious, I would rather refuse the name of " Religious " to the Social
Gilds existing among them, to the Gilds of the Kalenders. Yet Mr. Fur-
nivall thinks that these last-named Gilds must be called so. But I am
told also by another friend, that the sense of the word " Religious " is
to-day different in English from the sense in which I used it, and that
it would mislead the reader as to the character of the said Gilds. I
therefore fully agree to the addition made by Mr. Furnivall to the
title of my Part II., for certainly the main objects of these Gilds we
should to-day call " Social."

3. Note to p. 50, on Bondmen in Towns and their Companies.

Mr. Furnivall thought that the existence of bondmen in towns and
of the companies into which they had *been ranged by their masters,
was a fact yet so little known to the English public, that a more
detailed note on them would not be out of place. I therefore give
a short statement as to the inhabitants of Worms, according to
Arnold \

At Worms there existed at the beginning of the eleventh century
the Community of the Manor of the Bishop (die hofrechtliclie
Gemeinde des Bischofs) on the one hand, and on the other the Com-
munity of the Old Freemen. To the former (the so-called familia
S. Petri) belonged the ministericdes, Jiscalini, and dagewardi (villeins).
The villeins were obliged to render common services to the bishop,
either as coloni (villeins on the country manor), or as operarii (handi-
craftsmen). Their bondage was exceedingly mild. The amount of
their wergild is not stated ; but there is no doubt that it was paid
entirely to the Church. The marriage between the dagewardi and
the Jiscalini was a morganatic one ; the children of it became dage-
wardi. The larger part of the later handicraftsmen sprang from this
class of villeins. They were ranged, according to the kind of their
services, into unions (societates) , which had an episcopal ministerialis
as president (minister). These unions, later on, developed themselves
into Craft-Gilds. The villeins who did not work as handicraftsmen,
served as coloni on the estates, where they were under the super-
intendence and jurisdiction of a minister loci, like the handicraftsmen
under that of their president. Next to the villeins came the Jiscalini,
so called because originally servants to the Jiscus, and belonging to the
royal palace. They rendered no common services, but services at
court and in war. They too were ranged into societates. But their
unions soon became extinct. First in the familia were the minis-
teriales. In opposition to these were the old freemen, who always
preserved their privileges of rank before the bond- handicraftsmen, and
who, later on, developed into patricians.

1 Arnold's Verfassungsgeschickte der deutschen Freistddte, vol. i. pp. 66-69.
Compare also the more popular treatise of Barthold, Geschichte der deutschen
Stddte und des deutschen Bicrgerthums, vol. i. pp. 77, 78, 148, 149, 280, and others.


As there may be but few Englishmen who know that in England
also villeins existed in towns, I insert here a note of one of the best
Middle- Age men in England, the Rev. Professor William Stubbs, of
Oxford, who kindly sent to Mr. Furnivall this note in answer to his
question on the point : — " In all towns not chartered there would be a
class of villani exactly the same as in the country manors. The force
of the bondage would of course vary, generally, very much from any-
thing of the kind on the Continent. But as originally all towns were
in demesne of some lord, bishop, or king, all the inhabitants would be
less than free : and even where some had obtained the dignity of
bu7*gage=socage tenure, still, until the town was freed by a charter,
there would be a large residuum of villani, whatever the hardship of
English villenage may have been."

4. Note to p. 20, note 1.

Mr. Ludlow answers this note as follows : — " I beg leave to say,
that I am perfectly in earnest in saying that tramp-money in all pro-
bability is the modern representative of the relief to pilgrim- artificers ;
not that all pilgrim-artificers were workmen on the tramp, because I
believe, with you, that these were a rare phenomenon in the fourteenth
century — though I believe some were — but because I believe that this
kind of pilgrimage tended necessarily to supersede the other, and
therefore would naturally inherit its advantages. Your reference to
the 12th R. II. c. 3 is correct ; but if you want a counter authority, see
the 25th Edward III. St. i. c. 7, which shows that ' artificers ' also were
expected to ' flee ' from one county to the other in consequence of
the law itself. Now a pilgrimage to a shrine would evidently be the
safest colour for such a migration ; under all circumstances it would
afford the best safeguard against local exactions and maltreatment.
See also as to the abuse of pilgrimage the 12th R. II. c. 7."

This explanation is very ingenious. Yet it does not convince me.
The artificers whom the 25th Edw. III. expects to flee from one county
to another, seem to me not to have been town-artificers. They were,
in my opinion, artificers working on the country manors of lords. Each
country manor had in the Middle Ages its own artificers, who supplied
the common wants of their lords, whilst the latter resorted only for
their more refined wants to the craftsmen of the towns. This ex-
planation of the Act in question seems to me the more probable when
we consider that all Statutes of Labourers in the Middle Ages were
framed especially with regard to the powers and wants of the landed
proprietors, the feudal lords. In towns, labour was generally regulated
by town-ordinances. Besides, we must remember that the exercise
of a craft in towns depended on having served an apprenticeship in
such towns, and on citizenship (see p. 65). A fleeing craftsman would
not therefore have been admitted into towns to carry on his craft.
Such fleeing to towns therefore would have been useless.




The three oldest Gild-Statutes, pp. i, 2. The essence of the Gilds
as manifested by them, p. 3. Investigation as to where this essence is
first found, ib. The name of Gilds first applied to the feasts of
the German tribes in Scandinavia on political, religious, and family
occasions, ib. Meaning of the word Gild *, p. 4. Importance of the
family among the German tribes, p. 5. The essence of the Gilds taken
from the family, p. 6. This essence already to be found in the heathen
sacrificial assemblies, pp. 6, 7. Also in the sworn confederacies of the
Scandinavian warriors, p. 7. Wilda's and Hart wig's opinions as to
the origin of Gilds, p. 8. Influence of Christianity on Gilds, p. 9.

1 Mr. Hensleigh Wedgwood's derivation of the word is as follows : — "Guild.
Danish glide, feast, banquet, guild or corporation ; Platt-Deutsch glide, a company,
corporation, society of burghers meeting on stated occasions for the purpose of
feasting and merrymaking. The primary meaning is a feast, then the company
assembled ; and the same transference of signification will be observed in the
word company itself, which, signifying in the first instance ' a number of persons
eating together,' has come to be applied to an association for any purpose, and, in
the case of the City Companies, to the very associations which were formerly
denominated Guilds.

" It is a mistake to connect the word with the German geld, payment. The
real derivation is to be found in Welsh gtvyl, Breton goel, goull, a feast or holiday,
gouella, to keep holiday ; Gaelic (with the usual change from the Welsh gw to /
initial), felll, a feast, holiday, fair or market ; Manx fealley, festival, sacred,
hallowed. The Irish fell, or felghll, is explained the vigil of a feast, sometimes
the feast itself, leading to the supposition that the word is a mere corruption of
the Latin vlglllce. But the Welsh and Breton forms could hardly have been
derived from that origin, and we find a satisfactory explanation in a native root,
Welsh gwyllo, to watch, be vigilant, to look for ; gwyled, to behold, to see ;
gwylad, keeping a festival, the notion of keeping or observing being commonly
expressed by the figure of looking. Breton gioel, look, sight, action of seeing.
In a similar manner, from wake, to be vigilant, to watch, we have the ivakes, the
festival of the patron saint ; Welsh givyl-mabsant, German Jcirchwelhe (weihen, to
consecrate), where the ideas of waking or keeping, and consecration or holiness,
are connected together in the same way as in Manx fealley.

" The Dutch form guide, a feast (populare convivium), also a guild or corporation,
closely resembles the Gothic dulths, Bavarian duld, a feast : Osterduld, Easter.
In modern times duld is appHed to a fair or market, commonly kept on the saint's
day of the place. Bidden, like Breton goelia, to solemnize. Tiddan, celebrare ;
tultlih, solennis. — Kero in Schmeller." English Etymology, i. 191-2. — (F.J. F.)

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Online LibraryLujo BrentanoOn the history and development of gilds, and the origin of trade-unions .. → online text (page 1 of 18)