[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Author Index][Search Archives]

The Utility of Guilds

>Now, now, young Earl...

Tadhg, this sort of humour does not work on the net.  I believe
that I am older than you.  I am also the oldest Earl in the
Kingdom.  All that you do by saying things like this is to
make your post start off by sounding paternal and condescending.
I know you did not intend that, but that is the way it comes off.
I am 33 years old.  Do not pretend to treat me as a child on the
net.  If Gyrth (an ancient 42 or more) wants to call me a child,
fine, but I have more grey in my beard than you do.

Tadhg talks at some length about guilds, and cuts some pieces
out of my case history of the Archer's Guild to make some points.

>However, you need to reconsider question 4. Your answer could be 
>condensed to "Not that I know of." And if you'll permit me this 
>point, if your answer for #4 is "No", then your answer for #1 should 
>be something like "Because it's familiar and addresses *most* of the 
>concerns". I believe the logic #4 undercuts your #1.

Tadhg, I'm afraid I don't understand what you are getting at, at all.
I gave you a case history of the Archer's Guild that I started.  I
then proceeded to analyze its successes and its failures.  It was
just a case history.  It was not intended to be an argument that
would prove for all time that any guild, no matter how it was
organized, would suck.  It was just a case history.  I hoped that
people would read it, find it interesting, and perhaps gain some
insight that would allow them, if they found themselves in a
position of starting something similar, to use some of my experience
in their own project.

Talking about the brewer's guild, Tadhg says:

>1)  Provide a service or commodity. 
>     I believe the brewer's guild does, in fact, provide such a 
>     service. I know of many a feast with root beer, ginger beer, or 
>     short mead--to say nothing of the tourney prizes and gifts to 
>     the crown to be distributed as royal largesse.

All of this is true.  And worthy.  But I, Dafydd ap Gwystl, do
also do all these things--I have provided many a feast with Mustard,
and innumerable tourney prizes, gifts, and such largesse.  I teach,
too.  Should *I* be an SCA Guild?  :^)

I won't cite the rest of your points here, because the above is
sufficient for me to make my point.  Which is this: there are a
lot of structures that fulfill many, or all, the objectives we
agree upon as laudable (teaching, service, etc.).  The University
of Atlantia; Colleges within that University; Fighting Schola (in
the classical sense); Workshops; Households; Fraternal Organizations
of Moose; and SCA Guilds.  I am NOT saying "DO NOT BE A GUILD".

> And I reiterate, 
>     "Monopoly is not consistent with nonprofit, educational 
>     organization."

Ah.  So you are really saying:
"Medieval Guilds are not consistent with the SCA".
I agree completely.  :^)

Moving along, Tadhg says:
> I think you are implying that a Master was a politician rather than a 
> skilled artisan.

You are correct, that was what I was saying.

> I would disagree with that somewhat--a Master was 
> *both*. You could not earn the respect of your peers without talent-- 
> and you would not become recognized as a Master without command of 
> that respect. Of course, the better you were at politics, ...

You are right, I over-generalized.  There were certainly some talented
artisans that rose in their guild because of their skill.  However,
my generalization still holds in spite of these exceptions.  In the
bulk of the Middle Ages and Rennaissance, for most guilds that
existed, Masters in the guild were raised because of their wealth,
birth, or politics far more often than for their skill.

Guilds are an artifact of the rising middle class.  Money and power
was what mattered.  Note also that there were lots and lots of guilds
where no artisan-type skill was involved--in York, England, one of
the most important and powerful guilds was the Merchant-Adventurer's
Guild.  And these guys were basically nothing but importers of cloth.
If you were a really great cloth-importer, but were poor and of no
political note, did you ever become a Master?  Hell, no.  You got
hired as a manager by one of the Merchant-Adventurers, and spent
your life in a position of trust and responsibility, making him more
wealthy.  But you never got to be a Master.

There are some exceptions.  Stonemasons, for example, were wanderers.
As wanderers, skill and the reputation of skill was far more important
than money and power, because if you got money and power you stopped
wandering (and stopped working as a stonemason).  So the Master Masons
were all adept artisans.

But Guilds were generally fixed in a given town.  If you were the son
of a Master of a Guild, you were damn likely to become a Master of
that Guild.  And if you were some lowly apprentice with no money or
family, the best you could hope for was to get a steady job working
for one of the Masters of the Guild.  You would not ever become one

About the brewer's guild, Tadhg says:
>There were certainly brewing guilds--some of extraordinary power, such as 
>the Hanseatic League.

Waitaminute--the Hanseatic League was a guild controlling (initially)
import and export throughout the Baltic, and later through most of
the North Sea.  Brewing had very little to do with the amount of
power they had.  And if you asked a medieval historian to describe
the Hanseatic League, the words "a brewing guild" would not cross
their mouth for the first 10,000 words.

>The Atlantian Brewer's Guild differs in that it 
>attempts to address *all* aspects of brewing.

This is a laudable aim.  Very useful.  Like the University of
Atlantia--very useful, but very, very UNlike any medieval university.