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Scottish Guilds
An interesting account of the Scottish Guilds from a review of the book "The Gild Merchant: A Contribution to British Municipal History. By Charles GrossHARLES GROSS, Ph.D. 2 Volumes.

Among the institutions of the Middle Ages, few were of greater importance, and are more deserving of careful study than the Gilda Mercatoria or Merchant Guild. Though by no means exciting, its history is intensely interesting, and throws a flood of light upon the social as well as upon the industrial and commercial life of mediaeval Europe. In our own country it has not attracted that amount of attention which it rightly deserves. Though the list of authorities which Mr. Gross has printed at the end of his first volume is somewhat formidable, the number of works it includes which have been written by English authors on the history of Guilds in general, is remarkably small. On the Continent the institution has been more fortunate. In France and Germany and elsewhere there is a fairly large literature in connection with it. Among others may be mentioned the contributions of Wilda, Gierke, Karl Hegel, Georg von Bulow, and Vander Linden. Across the Atlantic, also, the subject would appear to be attracting a considerable amount of attention. Mr. Gross himself, though his work issues from the Clarendon Press, and in its original form appeared at Gottingen, is the Instructor in History at the Harvard University. Mr. Ashley, however, who has written two most admirable chapters on the Merchant and Craft Guilds in his History of Economic* though a professor in the same University, belongs to Oxford.

^Ir. Gross's principal theme is the English Merchant Guild. With his treatment of that we do not propose here to deal, but, in passing, one or two remarks may be ventured upon it. For the first time, Mr. Gross has made easily accessible to students a large mass of materials in connection with the ancient Guihls, chiefly in the shape of charters and ordinances, which were previously widely scattered or published only in fragments, and which for the study of the subject are indispensable.

The theories of Professor Bretano respecting the origin and early development of Guilds, f lip has effectually dissipated, and rendered doubtful some of the speculations which have been founded upon them by Mr. Herbert Spencer. In opposition to Messrs. I\Ierewether and Stephens, Mr. Gross has shown that the Merchant Guild was not a mere mercantile association, devoid of public functions, but was at one time an organic and constituent part of municipal government. On the other hand, in contradiction to Mr. Thompson, he has shown that while a constituent element in the civic government, the Merchant Guild did not cover the same area, but as included in it as a part of the whole. It may further be remarked that Mr. Gross's volumes have been extremely well received, and have come to be looked upon as the standard work on the subject.

Our purpose here has reference to the Guilds of Scotland. These are treated of by Mr. Gross in an Appendix, I which fairly bristles with notes and references, and has every appearance of accuracy; and, as it is likely to be regarded as a standard authority on the subject, if, indeed, it is not already so regarded, what we propose in the following pages is to examine it, and afterwards to give the reader some idea of the Scottish Guilds as they seem to us to be presented in the authorities we shall have to refer to.

You can download the rest of this article in pdf format here

The book can be downloaded in pdf format here...

Volume 1  |  Volume 2

The Scottish Craft Guild as a Religious Fraternity
By Robert Lamond

Return to Scottish Historical Articles


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