Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Medieval Guild-Workers Unite

The Merchant Guilds and Craft Guilds formed in the Middle Ages were critical in the creation of new middle and wealthy classes of commoners in Feudal Europe.

In the 900's CE, the first Merchant Guilds appeared in Europe as organizations of merchants were formed for mutual protection as they traveled on trade routes that were then being reestablished throughout Europe. Some even gained charters to establish their own trade towns.

Craft Guilds were formed by the skilled workers in every craft known during the Middle Ages. From bakers to smiths, rules of conduct, training, quality of work and prices charged were created and enforced.

Starting as an "Apprentice" was the initial step in joining a guild. The apprentice would live with a Guild Master and either pay in coin, service or both to be taught the basics of the job/trade-this took up to seven years. When qualified,in the Masters eyes and by the quality of his work, the apprentice was upgraded to "Journeyman." Journeymen were entitled to pay, and would do the "lions share' of the work in the guilds. If the journeyman was skilled enough, he could present is best work (his Masters Piece) to the other masters and if they thought it worthy he would be granted the title of "Master." A master was paid the most for his "Master Works,",was required to oversee the work of journeymen and was allowed to train apprentices. Master became a title to be used as a rank of skill ie: Master Carpenter, Master Goldsmith, Master Baker etc.

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