Feminism and Renaissance Studies

By Lorna Hutson | Go to book overview

15 Guilds, Male Bonding and Women's
Work in Early Modern Germany

Merry Wiesner

Though they are featured prominently in studies of medieval urban life, craft guilds have received less attention from early modern historians, who often view them as institutions in decline which were trying unsuccessfully to prevent economic change. This view of the guilds' decay has been successfully challenged in the case of Germany by Mack Walker, who demonstrates that in most medium-sized German cities the time after the Thirty Years War was 'the period probably of their greatest power to impress their values and goals upon the society of which they were components'.1 These values and goals primarily involved maintaining the local economy and upholding the honour of the guilds. Walker and others have analysed the guild notion of honour quite extensively without noting what is, in my opinion, the most important component of it: this was an honour among men, an honour which linked men together with other men and excluded women. Craft guilds became an excellent example of what sociologists and psychologists term 'male bonding'.

Male bonding is a concept rarely used by historians, perhaps owing to the fact that the male group so predominates as a subject of historical study that male bonding appears trans-historical and almost self-evident. In this case, however, the notion of male bonding can prove enlightening and help to explain some of the actions of craft guilds in early modern Germany which are difficult to explain in terms of more standard social, economic, and political factors. It is an even more powerful determinant of the actions of journeymen's guilds, which were a new force in the economy of early modern German cities. I thus use the concept of male bonding to analyse the aims and actions of craft guilds and journeymen's guilds in German cities from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Though this exploration could go off in many directions, I will focus my dis-

From Gender and History, l (1989), 125-37. Reprinted with permission.

-412-

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Feminism and Renaissance Studies
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Notes on Contributors vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Humanism After Feminism 19
  • 1: Did Women Have a Renaissance? 21
  • 2: Women Humanists 48
  • 3: The Housewife and the Humanists 82
  • 4: The Tenth Muse 106
  • Part II - Historicizing Femininity 125
  • 5: The Notion of Woman in Medicine, Anatomy, and Physiology 127
  • 6: Women on Top 156
  • 7: The 'Cruel Mother' 186
  • 8: Witchcraft and Fantasy in Early Modern Germany 203
  • Part III 231
  • 9: Diana Described 233
  • 10: Literary Fat Ladies and the Generation of the Text 249
  • 11: Margaret Cavendish and the Romance of Contract 286
  • 12: Surprising Fame 317
  • Part IV - Women's Agency 337
  • 13: Women on Top in the Pamphlet Literature of the English Revolution 339
  • 14: La Donnesca Mano 373
  • 15: Guilds, Male Bonding and Women's Work in Early Modern Germany 412
  • 16: Language, Power, and the Law 428
  • 17: Finding a Voice 450
  • Bibliography 468
  • Index 475
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