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The Rise of Capitalism and Decline of the Gilds

The Rise of Capitalism and Decline of the Gilds - The Rise...

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The Rise of Capitalism and Decline of the Gilds THE GILD SYSTEM The basic medieval manufacturing organization was the traditional shop -- a master and wife, a couple of employees, and a couple of children learning the trade. The master bought his raw materials, fabricated his product, and sold it retail. The shop was residence, dormitory, workshop, ware-house, and retail store. The masters of a given trade in a particular location united into a gild. The gild served many functions: Economic o It set standards of quality for the goods or services that its members sold. o It the prices to be paid for materials and labor and to be asked for finished products - Usually the maximum price that members would offer from labor and materials, and the minimum price they would accept for their product. o It set production quotas for its members, both to insure that the gild's production would be sufficient to meet the needs of its market and to make sure that production would not be so great as to glut its market and drive down prices. o The gild stood surety for loans to members. This was something like co- signing a loan, but it was in the interest of all that members of the gild should not get a bad reputation because a few of their number had defaulted on loans. o Members of a gild were able to pool their capital and, perhaps even more important, share their risks. For example, if a member of a merchant gild sent out a shipload of goods, there was always the danger that a shipwreck could cost him the entire value of its cargo. If eight members sent out eight shiploads and divided their goods among those ships, however, the most a shipwreck could cost any member was one-eighth of his shipment. [ Incidentally, modern companies evolved from this practice, which is why they sell shares of stock to the public], Educational o The gild established and enforced minimum educational standards for apprentices. Masters were usually expected to teach their apprentices how to read and write, enough arithmetic to keep books, and to provide decent religious instruction in addition to teaching them the rudiments of their profession.
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o Representatives of the gild regularly inspected the conditions under which apprentices and journeymen worked. The usual arrangement for apprenticeships was that the parent of a young man, aged about seven, would take their son to a master of the gild in which they hoped that the boy could be trained. They paid the master a fee (sometimes quite large) and signed an agreement that the boy would work for the master for seven years as an apprentice. The master, in turn, promised to educate and train him and, at the end of the seven years, provide him with a new suit of clothes, a kit of whatever the tools of his trade were, and enough money to begin the period of traveling and gaining experience as a journeyman (coming from the French jour , or "day," and meaning a man paid each day for his labor. Incidentally, many gilds stipulated that it members were to provide their apprentices with new clothes once a year, usually at Easter. Note that clothing stores still
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The Rise of Capitalism and Decline of the Gilds - The Rise...

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