The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Medieval Guilds

  • Gary Richardson
Reference work entry


Guilds operated throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, and in many places into the early modern era. Merchant guilds were organizations of merchants involved in long-distance commerce and local wholesale trade, and may also have been retail sellers of commodities in their home cities and distant venues where they possessed rights to trade. Craft guilds were organized along lines of particular trades, their members typically owning and operating small family businesses. After the Black Death guilds grew rapidly in number, becoming the central economic and social institutions in medieval towns.


Black Death Collective liability Craft guilds Credit Fertility Free rider problem Hanseatic League Insurance Medieval guilds Merchant guilds Monopoly Reputation Urbanization 

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gary Richardson
    • 1
  1. 1.