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Middle Ages


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Guilds in the Middle Ages were associations or groups of craftsmen. Each guild focused on a specific trade such as the candlemaker's guild or the tanner's guild.

Why were guilds important?

Guilds in the Middle Ages played an important role in society. They provided a way for trade skills to be learned and passed down from generation to generation. Members of a guild had the opportunity to rise in society through hard work.

The guild protected members in many ways. Members were supported by the guild if they came onto hard times or were sick. They controlled working conditions and hours of work. The guild also prevented non-guild members from selling competitive products. Some guild members were even exempt from paying high taxes from the lords and kings.

Merchant Guild
from the Master Panel of Ulmer Schneider 1662

Guilds helped more than just their members. They had numerous rules that helped to keep the quality of work and pricing consistent. This helped consumers to know they were getting a good product at the correct price.

Guild Positions

In each guild in the Middle Ages there were very well defined positions of Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master. Apprentices usually were boys in their teens who signed up with a master for around 7 years. They would work hard for the master during this time in exchange for learning the craft plus food, clothing, and shelter.

Once the apprenticeship was complete, he became a Journeyman. As a Journeyman, he would still work for a master, but would earn wages for his work.

The highest position of the craft was the Master. To become a Master, a Journeyman would need the approval of the guild. He would have to prove his skill, plus play the politics needed to get approval. Once a Master, he could open his own shop and train apprentices.

Types of Guilds

In a major city during the Middle Ages, there could be as many as 100 different guilds. Examples include weavers, dyers, armorers, bookbinders, painters, masons, bakers, leatherworkers, embroiderers, cobblers (shoemakers), and candlemakers. These were called craft guilds.

There also were merchant guilds. Merchant guilds controlled the way trade was handled in the town. They could become very powerful and controlled much of the local economy.

A guild sign by Abubiju via Wikimedia Commons

Interesting Facts about the Guilds Activities

More subjects on the Middle Ages:

Feudal System
Medieval Monasteries
Glossary and Terms

Knights and Castles
Becoming a Knight
History of Knights
Knight's Armor and Weapons
Knight's coat of arms
Tournaments, Jousts, and Chivalry

Daily Life in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages Art and Literature
The Catholic Church and Cathedrals
Entertainment and Music
The King's Court

Major Events
The Black Death
The Crusades
Hundred Years War
Magna Carta
Norman Conquest of 1066
Reconquista of Spain
Wars of the Roses

Byzantine Empire
The Franks
Kievan Rus
Vikings for kids

Alfred the Great
Genghis Khan
Joan of Arc
Justinian I
Marco Polo
Saint Francis of Assisi
William the Conqueror
Famous Queens

Works Cited

History >> Middle Ages for Kids

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