The Economic Organisation of England: An Outline History

By William Ashley | Go to book overview

LECTURE II
The Stages of Industrial Evolution: the Gild
as Starting Point

As, in tracing the history of the agricultural side of English life, I began with the thirteenth century in order to avoid controversy, so with the same object I shall begin an account of the manufacturing or industrial side with the fourteenth century. Long before that time ' a number of towns had firmly established themselves; and in those towns trade and manufacture were carried on to an extent considerable in itself, though still quite small in comparison with agricultural employment. And, towards the end of that century, the men who carried on the several industries were organised, in every town, in what it has become usual to speak of as "the gild system" Starting as late as this, I am compelled to omit much that is of extreme interest. The gild system, as I have already stated, was characteristic of industry in the towns; and indeed, with the exception of the arts of the village miller and the village blacksmith, and here and there a little mining and quarrying all economic activity that was not directly agricultural was now, and for some time to come, centred in the towns. We ought, therefore, did time allow us, to deal with the tangled problem of the origin of the towns and of their constitution. The

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