The Merchant’s Guild
Trade in most feudal countries in Zaldara is regulated by powerful Merchant’s Guilds. In many cases, the Guildmasters of the Merchant’s Guild of a particular city have a seat of power in local government—they are part of a local council, advise the ruling lord, or are actually appointed to the city bureaucracy. Members of the Guild receive protection from excessive taxes imposed by the lords and land owners.
The Charter of the Merchant’s Guild includes:
- A ban on, or fines imposed, on any illicit trading by non-Merchant’s Guild members
- Fines imposed on any Merchant’s Guild members who violated the Merchant’s Guild’s charter
- Members of the Merchant Guilds are protected and any Merchant’s Guild member who falls sick is cared for by the Guild. Burials of Guild members are arranged and the Merchant’s Guild undertakes to care for any orphans
- The members of Merchant’s Guild also provides protection for horses, wagons, and goods when moving about the land
- Competition between members is regulated by fixed pricing policies – advertising and price cutting is banned
- Quality of goods or workmanship: Goods and services were inspected and members were expected to undertake long apprenticeships
There are numerous craft guilds within each city as well. Each regulate trade within their chosen occupation. Much like the Merchant’s Guild, the Craft Guilds are each governed by a Guild Charter which includes:
- A ban on, or fines imposed, on any illicit trading by non Craft Guild members
- Fines imposed on any Craft Guild members who violate the charter of their particular Craft Guild
- Members of the Craft Guilds are protected and any member who falls sick is cared for by the Guild. Burials of guild members are arranged and the Craft Guilds undertake to care for any orphans
- The members of Craft Guilds also provide protection of horses, wagons, and goods when moving about the land
The Craft Guilds ensure that their craft or trade is effectively a ‘closed shop’ or monopoly preventing any outside competition. Prices are fixed between members of the Craft Guilds. And the Craft Guilds ensure that high standards of quality are maintained. The number of Craft Guild members are also regulated, allowing a restricted membership in order to ensure that the numbers of Craft Guilds do not exceed the business requirements.
Craft Guilds include (but are not limited to):
- Armourers & Brasiers (armour-makers and workers in brass)
- Barbers (also surgeons and dentists)
- Bowyers (longbow makers)
- Broderers (embroiderers)
- Chandlers (candle makers)
- Cordwainers (workers in fine leather)
- Curriers (dressers of tanned leather)
- Farriers (shoers of horses)
- Fletchers (arrow makers)
- Girdlers (girdles and belts as clothing)
- Loriners (stirrups and other harness for horses)
- Pattenmakers (makers of wooden clog-style footwear)
- Plaisterers (plasterers)
- Scriveners (writers of court letters and legal documents)
- Upholders (upholsterers)
- Woolmen (winders and packers of wool)
Becoming a Member of a Guild
A person would have to work through three phases to become a member of a Guild. Each Guild may have different terms for these phases, but most conform to this structure.
Apprentice: A Guild Apprentice was sent to work for a ‘Master’ during his early teens. The Guild Apprenticeship lasted between 5 and 9 years depending on the trade. During this time the apprentice received no wages – just his board, lodging and training.
Journeyman: A Guild Journeyman was paid for her labor. During this time the Journeyman would create her ‘Masterpiece’, in her own time, which she would present to the Guild as evidence of her craftsmanship in the hope of being accepted as a Guild ‘Master’. It was difficult to reach the status of ‘Master’ and much depended on the Journeyman’s standing and acceptance by the top members of the Guild. In the case of the Merchant’s Guild, the ‘Masterpiece’ could be a particularly difficult-to-acquire sales item or the establishment of a successful market.
Master: A Guild Master could set up his own workshop and then train his own apprentices.