Economics & Finance

The European Guilds: An Economic Analysis

A comprehensive analysis of European craft guilds through eight centuries of economic history


Published (US):
Jun 15, 2021
Published (UK):
Jul 27, 2021
6.13 x 9.25 in.
27 b/w illus.
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Guilds ruled many crafts and trades from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution, and have always attracted debate and controversy. They were sometimes viewed as efficient institutions that guaranteed quality and skills. But they also excluded competitors, manipulated markets, and blocked innovations. Did the advantages of guilds outweigh their costs? Analyzing thousands of guilds from 1000 to 1880, The European Guilds answers that question with vivid examples and clear economic reasoning. Sheilagh Ogilvie features the voices of honourable guild masters, underpaid journeymen, exploited apprentices, shady officials, and outraged customers, and follows the stories of the “vile encroachers”—women, migrants, Jews, gypsies, bastards, and others—desperate to work but hunted down by the guilds as illicit competitors. The European Guilds analyzes the toxic complicity between guild members and political elites, and shows how privileged institutions and exclusive networks prey on prosperity and stifle growth.

Awards and Recognition

  • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of the Year
  • Winner of the Gyorgy Ranki Prize, Economic History Association