[C&G] Question about Merchant's Guilds

C&G page 41 notes that Merchant's Guilds function differently than Craft- or Service Guilds, and refers to chapter 7 on Trade

But i can't seem to find much about guilds here. Are the merchants divided into guilds based on the wares they sell? On the type pf merchant they are (local carier, merchant adventurer)? The Local carrier mentions things about cities without bridges or fords make for a powerful Watermen's Guild - but why is this a Merchant's Guild, it seems to me more like a Service Guild, like teamsters or drovers.

Can anyone shed some light on this?

When I originally read that part I got the feeling that the main difference was the "Company" concept, the family-based organizations that do not exist in Craft or Service Guilds, with all its members being blood (or in-law) relatives. I asumed that a company was focused on a broad kind of products (the bigger the company, the broader the kind of products), but reading again that chapter, I can't find any specific information confirming this...

This is one which will vary heavily depending on where your saga is set.

To use the example of my current saga, set in medieval York - the two most powerful guilds in York are the Merchant Tailors and the Company of Merchant Adventurers. The Merchant Tailors control the wool and cloth trade, and Yorkshire is full of sheep producing high quality raw wool. The merchant adventurers guild matches people making expeditions to far-off lands for exotic goods to people with the capital to back these expeditions (in effect, the guild allows a primitive form of venture capitalism to spread the risk and reward of shipping expeditions for exotic trade and imported goods).

{As an archaeological note, the medieval hall of the Merchant Adventurers still stands in York, so visitors can get an impression of what a hall belonging to a medieval guild like those found in the Hanseatic league looked like}

Your saga WILL vary, because there is a huge difference between English guilds (with the emphasis on the wool trade), the northern guilds that historically in the later 13th century form the Hanseatic league, and the mediterranean trading families.

I'm specifically trying to get a correct feel for Dortmund i 1220, which has just been made a Free Imperial City and is part of the Hanseatic League. I'm thinking here rpimarily metal resources plus the coal to effectively work them.

I found fordham.edu/halsall/source/1 ... ermans.asp which has the details of the 1229 treaty between German merchants (which included 2 from Dortmund according to one set of Dortmund historical information for tourists I found) and the Duchy of Novgorod, which apparently forms part of the basis for later Hanseatic agreements (but the Hanseatic league is far in the future in 1220!)

Unfortunately most of the information on line about German merchants seems to date from the fourteenth century onwards after the Hanseatic league is founded, so it's hard to get anything specifically German for the canonical Ars era.

Maybe that alone tells you something - that those guilds were not big and powerful enough to leave a high profile in the historic record, mebbe? Just an assumption, but not an unreasonable one if you need to recreate things blind and that's all ya got. :confused:

Actually it's a really bad assumption when you think about it in detail. It's fine for gaming purposes, of course.

The survival of records over long periods of time is more due to accident than any sense of "importance". Indeed, the records of "important" things are often deliberately destroyed/modified/falsified when there is some kind of regime change. Thinking about Guilds specifically, it is possible that later guilds would consider destroying the records/property of older guilds. This is because a guild might want to destroy any suggestion that there was an older authority that could be perceived as more legitimate than (or merely alternative to) itself. Likewise, a guild that assimilates an older one will tend to remove/destroy/modify what it would consider redundant references to its predecessors.

And, of course, the recording of something at all at best means it was merely important (or maybe only convenient) for the person making that record. Many surviving, period references have monastic origins. Monks are probably not that likely to consider recording the jurisdiction, laws, membership, etc of a nearby guild a particularly important task.

Possibly, multiple survivals of a record tells you something about how widely distributed something was.

Maybe it's important to point that out to some, but I'm aware of all that (which is why I pointed it out in the first place), thanks just the same.

And it's not a "bad" assumption, it's just one without foundation one way or the other - which makes it a "dangerous" assumption for anything precise, and
"unacceptable" for academic purposes - but this ain't that.

It could be 100% accurate, it could make a far better story than anything "historical" - so, lacking any other basis, "assumption" is all we got. And for an RPG, that's often more than adequate.

Quality and availability of sources aside, I think I'll just make it up as I go along. Coincidentally I could find no records of population numbers in Dortmund before 1300. But as it recievred status of free imperiaol city in 1220 someone would have been likely to do a census or even record a rough guess.

Returnign to the original question about division of Merchant's Guilds, does anybody have any clue as to what C&G means about this? Are they divided på familiy affiliation (e.g. the Schwarzhold Family Guild etc.) or by which wares they sell (Silver Merchants Guild) or even their affiliation witht he city and activities within (the Local Carrier's Guild, City Merchants', Traveling Merchant's)???

family vs craft is ... likely a false distinction, as sons are likely to take up the craft of their fathers.

To the best of my knowledge, the craft guilds were just that - divided by craft.
Thus a rope makers' guild, a coopers' guild a miners' guild etc - getting more and more [strike]silly[/strike] specialised as times advance.

(I"m no expert, but I know a little - I was hoping someone better read would opine, but I'll take a stab, and maybe they'll do us the favour of correcting any errours I make...)

Actually, it's even more more [strike]silly[/strike] specialised than that...

If you look at medieval occupations, they are incredibly specialized. One group might cut the grass for twine, another would create the twine, another would sell the twine, another would turn the twine into rope, and yet another would sell the rope - and no one saw this as inefficient or contrary to common sense. But if you're going to do something back then, you do learn to do it well. Those who made barrels (coopers) did not make buckets, and vice versa, even if the construction only differs in scale. The reason why (before RPG's, ahem) the phrase "a Jack of all trades" was always followed by "and a master of none."

The more "agrarian" occupations did not tend to form Guilds - farmers, herders, gatherers etc. They were spread out, and at the bottom of the economic food chain. If someone had no other Trade, the best could aspire to was something like that.

Manufacturers taught the secrets of their trade to others via apprenticeship (and only they could then legally practice that trade) and that was the basis for one sort of Guild, and others sold that product and formed a Guild to protect their monopoly on that product and the prices (and profits), and that was the basis for another. The former guaranteed that outsiders could not legally compete, and the latter guaranteed that an outside entrepreneur could not simply buy the product and undersell them. (It also protected consumers from shoddy wares and services, and so The Law bought into the system and eagerly supported it - unless the local Lord decided otherwise.) Either way, the goal was to have absolute control over who can enter the market, and so from a Capitalistic point of view there is never any "competition" allowed - the Guild has a pure and total monopoly, and controls the size of the labor pool. (This is fine by those in power, and in part explains why there was little economic or geographic mobility in the social classes - you do what your father did and where he did it, because that's all the options available.) This monopoly was the goal, and it was achieved efficiently.

C&G lists watermen as a "Merchant guild" because they list all "carriers" in that Chapter - possibly because of the obvious capital investment needed - a boat (or a mule or wagon for land carriers. The "merchant" part was the contracting to carry.) As opposed to services, which may need little or no tools, that boat/mule/wagon/cart whatever is a huge signifier for those in that profession. Very difficult for an outsider to "blend in" with the locals. (Also, the route itself - everyone passes each other regularly, so will know each other by face). This creates a different dynamic than for services, where individuals can travel and roam to find work.

So, at the simplest level, the diff between these Guilds was the difrerences in the practical challenge of maintaining and enforcing that monopoly within their chosen market. If extended "families" allowed the sort of broader geographic connections that local commonfolk could not achieve, then that's how that challenge was (most effectively) surmounted.

This is highly dependent on locality and periode.
In general, the fewer people around, the more tasks are performed by the same master - a small town might only have a single (or very few) cooper(s), who also made buckets because otherwise no-one did, while a place like Paris or Milano would have more craftsmen - and more specialised ones at that.
Similarly, trades tended to become more specilised over time - I must admit to not having detailed source material with me at the moment, IIRC the guilds are only just on the rise in this periode - there specilisation but not as extreme as it will be 2-3 centuries later. Having 5 seperate guilds involved in the making of a single rope is still (a bit) in the future. :slight_smile:

Tellus - Very true, but what's your point? Any written communication has a "context", and you have to take what is written within that context. (Ignoring that context is like ignoring the preamble to the conversation - the response becomes largely meaningless and unrelated to anything else.)

This thread is generally about "guilds", and the diff between diff types of guilds (as defined in C&G). Someone in a village that small would most likely not be a member of any guild, hence... moot point.

As for the specific examples of different professions, that was not in the context of "guilds", but responding to the previous post, re the "[strike]silliness[/strike] specialization" of medieval occupations.

But, yeah, other than that minor detail, taken by themselves, I'd absolutely agree with your comments.

My point (as I thought I'd made clear, my apologies) was that the guilds were (AFAIK) not as specialised as mentioned above (5 guilds to make and sell a rope), in 1220.

They will be as time progresses though.