A Source Book for Medieval Economic History

By Roy C. Cave; Herbert H. Coulson | Go to book overview
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SECTION III
CRAFT GILDS AND INDUSTRY

Introduction

After the dissolution of the Roman collegia household industry alone supplied the manufactured goods necessary for life. This industry was mainly in the hands of serfs, and most of the goods produced by it were for local consumption. In the Carolingian era workshops (camerae and gynaccea) were established on royal and seignioral villas, and many different kinds of industry were there carried on by the serfs. See Charlemagne Capitulary, De Villis, Part I, Section II, document 3.

On the monastic estates instruction was given by the monks themselves who encouraged workmanship of a high quality. Thus, new towns came into existence, and confraternities or gilds of workmen, free and unfree, engaged in the same craft, were sometimes formed. During the later invasions of the ninth and tenth centuries there was not much opportunity for further advance. Hence, the household and workshop industries survived, for a time, at the expense of town industry. With the development of a free class in the towns, independent of the domain, even before the Crusades, there appeared a special class of artisans who lived by their craft. When the Crusades broke down the isolation which characterized Western Europe, and when trade and commerce expanded, then craftsmen became more numerous, and they tended to form associations to protect themselves. As the merchants soon ceased to be associated directly with production, corporations or craft gilds became more common, and specialization developed within the crafts themselves. Manufactured goods were then furnished to the merchant gilds for sale.

The charters granted to the craft gilds, for the most part, confirm the regulations and customs which had been gradually evolved by the craftsmen.

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A Source Book for Medieval Economic History
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