The History of Leith

January 28, 2011

The Trade Guild/Incorporations of Leith

THE craftsmen were the skilled tradesmen or artisans of the Middle Ages. They were divided into guilds or unions, each trade having a guild of its own. In previous chapters we have already read of the Edinburgh Merchant Guild, and a subdivision of it, the Guild of St. Anthony, whose members had the monopoly of the wine trade in
the two towns. These merchant and craft guilds were to be found in every country of Western Europe, and the control of all trade and industry down to the close of the eighteenth century was mainly, in their hands. No one was allowed to carry on any trade during those
long centuries unless he was a member of the local guild of that trade. These guilds, or trade incorporations, as they were more generally called in Scotland after the Reformation, were just the trade unions of mediaeval times, with this, among other important differences that membership was not confined to workmen only, but included all masters and apprentices as well. Hence, unlike the trade unions of our day, their rules were so framed that they protected the interests of “the masters and apprentices as well as those of the men, and were
as strict in promoting excellence of workmanship as they were in obtaining a good price for the work. In other words, the craft guilds of the Middle Ages, unlike the trade unions of to-day, not only promoted the interests of the workmen employed, but at the same time protected the general public against the sale of inferior articles.

Source-The Story of Leith

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