'In Place of Strife' - The Guilds and the Law in Renaissance Venice

The trade guilds of Venice, explains Richard Mackenney, were organisations with a surprising amount of political and economic power in the patrician Renaissance city.

For some time, guilds have been an unfashionable subject and tend to be identified with economic obsolescence and political passivity. They existed to protect those who practised a common trade, to maintain the standards of the craft and to express the solidarity of members through conviviality and the provision of support for guildsmen and their families. Such corporate organisations became increasingly common in the thirteenth century and were the products of economic growth in that period. By the sixteenth century, so the textbooks say, their exclusiveness and their monopolistic tendencies made them enemies of growth in an expanding economy. In England, guilds began to disappear by the end of the seventeenth century. Elsewhere, especially in France, their existence was artificially continued by governments which found them convenient for purposes of taxation.

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