Sheilagh Ogilvie: The European guilds: an economic analysis
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Since the days of Adam Smith, the guilds have constituted an intriguing topic for economists. Smith denounced them as a monopoly that reduces supply and raises prices, and the revolutionaries of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries set out to suppress them. The merits and demerits of the guilds have also been debated among historians, with some highlighting their egalitarianism, their defense of a job well-done or their role as transmitters of knowledge and providers of insurance. Others have stressed the discrimination they practiced against apprentices and journeymen through restrictions of, and delays in promotion and the unilateral determination of their wages; the obstacles they created to the new products, methods and adaptions to demand; their endogamy and their opposition to the growth of the firm, in addition to the restrictions they placed on competition.
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