Guilds, Innovation, and the European Economy

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search

* Book: Epstein, S. A. and Maarten Prak (editors). Guilds, Innovation, and the European Economy, 1400–1800. Cambridge, 2008.



"Since the time of the French Revolution guilds have been condemned as a major obstacle to economic progress in the pre-industrial era. However, this re-examination of the role of guilds in the early modern European economy challenges that view by taking into account new research on innovation, technological change, and entrepreneurship. Leading economic historians argue that industry before the Industrial Revolution was much more innovative than previous studies have allowed for and explore the new products and production techniques that were launched and developed in this period. Much of this innovation was fostered by the craft guilds that formed the backbone of industrial production before the rise of the steam engine. The book traces the manifold ways in which guilds in a variety of industries in Italy, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Britain helped to create an institutional environment conducive to technological and marketing innovations."


1 Craft Guilds, the Theory of the Firm, and Early Modern Proto-industry 25 ULRICH PFISTER

2 Craft Guilds, Apprenticeship and Technological Change in Pre-industrial Europe 52 S. R. EPSTEIN

3 Subcontracting in Guild-based Export Trades, Thirteenth–Eighteenth Centuries 81 CATHARINA LIS AND HUGO SOLY

4 Circulation of Skilled Labour in Late Medieval and Early Modern Central Europe 114 REINHOLD REITH

5 Painters, Guilds and the Art Market during the Dutch Golden Age 143 MAARTEN PRAK

6 Craft Guilds and Technological Change: The Engine Loom in the European Silk Ribbon Industry in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries 172 ULRICH PFISTER

7 Guilds, Technology and Economic Change in Early Modern Venice 199 FRANCESCA TRIVELLATO

8 Inventing in a World of Guilds: Silk Fabrics in Eighteenth-century Lyon 232 LILIANE PEREZ

9 ‘Not to Hurt of Trade’: Guilds and Innovation in Horology and Precision Instrument Making 264 ANTHONY TURNER

10 Reaching beyond the City Wall: London Guilds and National Regulation, 1500–1700 288 IAN ANDERS GADD AND PATRICK WALLIS

11 Guilds in Decline? London Livery Companies and the Rise of a Liberal Economy, 1600–1800 316 MICHAEL BERLIN



Nathan Schneider:

"A chapter in the volume: Epstein, S. R. ”Craft Guilds, Apprenticeship, and Technological Change in Preindustrial Europe.“ Journal of Economic History 58, no. 3 (September 1998) [1]:

  • Argues that guilds were abolished not because they were uncompetitive but because they were abolished by decree, against the common claim that they were rent-seekers that inhibited innovation (684)
  • Focuses on craft/manufacturing, not service guilds (685)
  • Craft guilds bought and sold bulk products for members, stabilized volatile incomes, cheap credit, bargaining unit, political power. Were often at odds with the wealthy merchant class.
  • Minimizes the role of rent-seeking in guilds, emphasizes the avoidance of free-riding on collective benefits. (687) - “Guilds were cost-sharing rather than price-fixing cartels.” (688)
  • Criticizes Adam Smith's critique of the apprenticeship system (688-89), necessary to protect the investment costs from masters in the training process
  • Questions the evidence that guilds stifled innovation (693)
  • The innovations that the guilds promoted were of a skill-enhancing, quality-adding, capital-saving kind, as opposed to later capital-driven innovations (696)
  • Success as a system for investment in human capital (701)
  • The benefits and mutual monitoring of clustering enterprises in craft districts (701)
  • The role of journeyman travel in diffusing innovations (703)
  • guilds helped protect the incentives for inventors (703-704) "


More Information