Friday, Dec 16
Ships from: Amazon.com Sold by: Amazon.com
Other Sellers on Amazon
The European Guilds: An Economic Analysis (The Princeton Economic History of the Western World, 78) Paperback – June 15, 2021
Enhance your purchase
A comprehensive analysis of European craft guilds through eight centuries of economic history
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.
"Winner of the Gyorgy Ranki Prize, Economic History Association"
"As an economic analysis of one of the most important institutions in medieval and early modern Europe, covering almost a millennium of European history, [The European Guilds] succeeds brilliantly."―Marc Levinson, Wall Street Journal
"Likely to stand as one of the more important works of economic history from the last decade."―Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution
"Monumental. . . . Essential reading for economic historians."―Anne McCants, Journal of Economic History
- Publisher : Princeton University Press (June 15, 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 688 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0691217025
- ISBN-13 : 978-0691217024
- Item Weight : 0.076 ounces
- Dimensions : 6.1 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,576,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
“The European Guilds” is a lot like that. It belongs strictly in the reference section. Strictly!
Riddled with, quite literally, thousands of footnotes (2365 across ten chapters) and 102 tables of data compiled by scholars in the field of economic and social history (this data rather arbitrarily falling into “quantitative” and “qualitative”) it is, pardon the pun, a “masterpiece” in forensic research regarding European crafts guilds.
It starts with two chapters which establish through references to previous research that guilds (i) bought their privileges by essentially bribing government and (ii) established extensive barriers to entry of all sorts of kinds. Six chapters follow that comb through all possible arguments made in modern academia in support of guilds.
I’ll spare you the agony, the book refutes every single one of them!
To summarize: the book basically rifles through fifty (give or take) nice things academic scholars have said before about European guilds (and, in particular crafts, not merchant guilds) and for each one pulls up at a minimum one study that looks at the sources and counts incidents / edicts / regulations / complaints / laws that provide strong circumstantial evidence against the scholarly argument defending the guilds. Paper being a two-dimensional medium, the author tabulates these results across two of (i) city/country (ii) craft (iii) period and and from there proceeds to demolish said scholarly argument in defence of guilds.
There are some pictures in the middle and a twenty page conclusion along the lines of what I’d hoped the book would be: first a precis of the preceding 565 pages of data and then ten pages placing the guilds historically, asking why they arose and providing an answer to why they eventually perished (after of course having refuted four alternative explanations, for good measure). In case you’re curious, the winner is the “distributional approach” according to which “institutions arise and survive that serve the distributional ends of the most powerful individuals and groups and decline only when the powerful find other institutions that better serve their needs.”
Yes, I know, I was hoping for an explanation to which the guilds are endogenous, but hey.
But the book is not without merit. It’s a tremendous reference. It’s just that I was hoping to pick up where I’d left off a couple Christmas seasons ago, when my Mika had bought me “Life in a Medieval City” at the book fair. It’s nothing like that, it’s basically an exhaustive compilation of data supported by an often very repetitive narrative that takes you through the data. (It’s OK that the narrative is repetitive, because each chapter in a book like this had better be able to stand alone)
But it wasn’t without its moments. I felt a frisson of true pride when I learned (p.241) that among the only three all-female guilds ever to have operated in Europe outside of clothing, textiles, retailing and personal adornment, one was the soap-makers of my mom’s home town of Trikala!!
Worth reading this 585 page brick for? Probably.