| Guild Hall Entrance | Development of Craft Guilds | Early Regulations |
| Apprenticeships | Journeymen | Women in the Guilds | Social Services |
| Great Weakness of the Guild System |
To make such a closely controlled monopoly such as the guilds work effectively, the supply of products has to be adjusted carefully to the demand for the products. Each guild tries to do this by limiting the number of its members. If a young man wishes to be admitted to a guild, he first has to learn the trade by serving as an apprentice to a guild member or master. If you want to follow in your father's business, you have to go elsewhere to learn it, for the law forbids fathers to take their own sons as apprentices. This results in fathers placing their children in the care of a friend or colleague whom he knows to act as the child's "master" and train them in the business. Children are usually placed as apprentices between the ages of seven and nine. Fathers sometimes have to pay for their children to be apprenticed and placing a child in a well-known house of business is expensive.
Each guild sets the number of apprentices each member can have and the number of years the apprentices has to serve. This way, the guild is able to control the number of craftsmen in its occupation. Each guild has its own uniform in order to be able to determine for example a shoemaker's apprentice from one who belonged to a different craft.
Many times fights will break out between apprentices of different guilds. And at still other times, they will play together. Sometimes apprentices are a great nuisance to other people in the towns. Apprentices might take matters into their own hands and though probably not meaning anything more than fun, will often let pranks go to far. A rather extreme case of this took place in 1516 when some London apprentices tried to murder a man whom they had taken a dislike to. The man's friends hid him in the gutters of his house while the apprentices looted and ransacked the man's shoemaker shop.
Standards are set to make sure that those wishing admittance to a guild are adequately trained in its particular craft. This results in the practice of an apprentice producing a "masterpiece" at the end of his training which he presents to the guild's officers as proof of his ability to practice the trade.
At the beginning of the guild system, each member of a craft guild had a small workshop where he worked with a few apprentices. When an apprentice finished his term of training and his "masterpiece" passed inspection by the guild officers, he could start working for anyone who needed a helper and if he saved enough could become a master and have a shop of his own. That has all changed now. Now the apprentice must spend time as a journeyman before ever hoping to become a master. I am working on that right now.
Bunson, Matthew E. (1995). Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages. Facts On File. New York, New York.
Clare, John D. (ed.) (1993). Fourteenth Century Towns. Random House, UK.
Hale, John. (1994). The Civilization of Europe in the Renaissance. Atheneum. New York, New York.
Hale, John R. (1965). Renaissance. Time Incorporated. New York, New York.
Harrison, Molly (1978). Children in History: 16th and 17th Centuries. Hulton Educational Publications, LTD., Cambridge, UK.
Jordan, William Chester (Ed.) (1996). The Middle Ages: An Encyclopedia for Students Vol.2.. Charles Scribner's Sons. New York, New York.
Painter, Sidney (1951). Mediaeval Society. Cornell University Press. Ithaca, New York.
Strayer, Joseph R. (Ed.). (1985). Dictionary of the Middle Ages, Volume 6. Charles Scribner's Sons. New York, New York.
Walker, Paul Robert (1995). The Italian Renaissance. Facts on File, New York, New York.