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Guilds performed a variety of important functions in the local economy. They established a monopoly of trade in their locality or within a particular branch of industry or commerce; they set and maintained standards for the quality of goods and the integrity of trading practices in that industry; they worked to maintain stable prices for their goods and commodities; and they sought to control town or city governments in order to further the interests of the guild members and achieve their economic objectives. There is no direct evidence for the existence of permanent associations of traders or craftsmen in ancient Mesopotamia or Egypt, and little more evidence exists about such societies in pre-Hellenistic Greece.

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Such associations are known to have existed in ancient Rome , however, where they were called collegia. These craft guilds seem to have emerged in the later years of the Roman Republic.

They were sanctioned by the central government and were subject to the authority of the magistrates. From the reign of the emperor Diocletian onward, the imperial government deliberately exploited these guilds in the interests of public authority and social order. The government tried to restrict the membership of the guilds to a hereditary caste of skilled artisans, but the increasing financial demands made upon the guilds by the government in the waning days of the Roman Empire had reduced most guilds to a precarious position by the 4th century ce.

With the fall of the Western Roman Empire, guilds disappeared from European society for more than six centuries. The collegia did survive in the Byzantine Empire , however, and particularly in the city of Byzantium Constantinople, now Istanbul.

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The famous Book of the Prefect , a manual of government probably drawn up by the Byzantine emperor Leo VI in the year , provides a picture of an elaborate guild organization whose primary function was the imposition of rigid controls, especially for financial and tax-raising purposes, on every craft and trade in the city.

Some historians have contended that the guilds of medieval Europe derived from the collegia of the Byzantine Empire, but no direct connections have been established between these different institutions, and the origins of the medieval guilds can be found in the changing economies of western and northern Europe as they emerged from the Dark Ages. Guilds became possible in Europe only with the appearance and growth of towns in the 10th and 11th centuries following the chronic dislocation and agrarian backwardness of the Dark Ages.

Until this time, merchants had been merely itinerant peddlers who executed all of their own trading transactions, personally traveling from market to market and from town to town. Such merchants tended to band together in order to protect themselves from bandits or predatory feudal lords as they made their business rounds.

Gradually, merchants expanded their activities and delegated such tasks as the transportation of goods to others, while the merchants based themselves and their operations in a particular town. Guilds came to control the distribution and sale of food, cloth, and other staple goods and thereby achieved a monopoly over the local commerce. Such guilds compelled foreign merchants or traders to pay a fee if they wanted to participate in the local trade, and some outside merchants were prohibited altogether from participating in that trade.

By the 13th century, merchant guilds in western Europe comprised the wealthiest and most influential citizens in many towns and cities, and, as many urban localities became self-governing in the 12th and 13th centuries, the guilds came to dominate their town councils. The guilds were thus able to pass legislative measures regulating all economic activity in many towns. Craft guilds arose soon after merchant guilds did.

They originated in expanding towns in which an extensive division of labour was emerging. The body of craftsmen in a town usually consisted of a number of family workshops in the same neighbourhood, with the masters or owners of such workshops related to each other by kinship, acquaintance, or the sharing of apprentices. The craftsmen would agree on some basic rules governing their trade, setting quality standards, and so on.

In this way the first craft guilds were formed. Craft and merchant guilds would often control different areas of a particular industry. The merchant guild in a wool-processing town or city, for instance, would control the purchase of raw wool and the production and sale of the processed fibre, while the craft guilds would control the actual carding, dyeing, and weaving of the wool. The internal structures of medieval craft guilds are well known from documents and were generally alike throughout Europe.

The guild tended to be an extremely hierarchical body structured on the basis of the apprenticeship system. See apprenticeship. In this structure, the members of a guild were divided into a hierarchy of masters , journeymen, and apprentices. The apprentices were provided with food, clothing, shelter, and an education by the master, and in return they worked for him without payment.

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After completing a fixed term of service of from five to nine years, an apprentice became a journeyman , i. The masters in any particular craft guild tended to be a select inner circle who possessed not only technical competence but also proof of their wealth and social position. Apprenticeship was the basic element in the craft guild, since it secured the continuity of practice, tradition, and personnel on which the welfare of the guild depended.

Apprenticeships in some trades came to be highly valued, and a family would have to pay a master a large sum of money for him to enroll their son as an apprentice. Often apprenticeships came to be restricted to the sons or other relatives of masters.

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Besides their economic and educational functions, guilds also served other purposes. A guild was often associated with a patron saint , and a local guild would maintain a chapel in the parish church to be used by its members. Guilds performed charitable work, not only among the poor and indigent among their own members but among the community at large. Guilds also built and maintained residences, called guildhalls , in which the membership would hold banquets and conduct official business.

Friction often arose between the wealthier members of the merchant guilds and the less prosperous but far more numerous members of the craft guilds in a particular city. Conflict between these two groups became especially intense when they competed for control of the city government, as happened in a number of cities in Italy, Germany , and the Low Countries. In their heyday from the 12th to the 15th century, the medieval merchant and craft guilds gave their cities and towns good government and stable economic bases and supported charities and built schools, roads, and churches.

Guilds helped build up the economic organization of Europe, enlarging the base of traders, craftsmen, merchants, artisans, and bankers that Europe needed to make the transition from feudalism to embryonic capitalism. Guest Review Guidelines

But you might consider these closings not as a loss of energy but as energy transformed, moving from one dimension to another. This constitutes going out with a very big bang. The art on view is a crowded array of mediums, styles and worldviews. At the opening on Thursday, the tally of artworks was exceeded only by the number of people attending.

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Sculptures at the center of the room were occasionally at risk but escaped damage. Circulation at the doorway approached subway rush-hour conditions. On the sidewalk outside the overflow crowd smoked, talked and watched the artist Dennis Palazzolo, dressed as an octopus, perform in the window. Last month she said their main goal had been to break even. But a few months ago the three realized that the art market slowdown had brought them to the brink. They decided to quit while still a bit ahead. VanDerBeek said they had put together the show in about three weeks, which is hard to believe, considering that it is unusually free of duds.

These include John Bianchi, who works in glazed plaster; Rebecca Shiffman, who contributes a rather nice portrait of Mr. VanDerBeek; the promising abstract painter Jonathan Roth; and the sculptor David Kennedy-Cutler, who has fashioned something quite mysterious out of plexiglass, shattered CDs and a torn-up photograph of an oil slick. View all New York Times newsletters. Better-known young artists like Ryan Johnson, Nicole Cherubini, Lansing-Dreiden and especially Chie Fueki signal interesting new directions with their inclusions. Lucas DeGiulio, who was all but lost in the last Whitney Biennial, contributes a visionary little piece fashioned from the twigs of a dead plant that is still in its flowerpot.

Made of old floor joints and bits of foam core, it is braced between the floor, ceiling and one wall, with very little but pressure holding it together. The main attraction here is a film, one of a series, that chronicles the interaction of a band of hairy but very civilized Big Foot characters and some primitive hippies. Degen and Mr.