skip to primary navigationskip to content

Book Launch: The European Guilds - An Economic Analysis, by Sheilagh Ogilvie (14 March 2019)

Professor Sheilagh Ogilvie's book analyzes the thousands of guilds that ruled crafts and trades in Europe from 1000 to 1880. Using colourful examples and clear economic reasoning, it shows how guilds manipulated both markets and states to benefit their members, but harmed outsiders, competitors, workers, consumers, and the economy as a whole.
When Mar 14, 2019
from 05:30 PM to 07:00 PM
Where OCR, Trinity College, Cambridge
Add event to calendar vCal

A Cambridge-INET Book Launch

The European Guilds: An Economic Analysis 
by Sheilagh Ogilvie



Title: The European Guilds: An Economic Analysis (Princeton University Press, 2019) by Sheilagh Ogilvie

Venue: Old Combination Room, Trinity College

When: 14 March 2019, 5.30pm-7pm

The book will be available at the Event at a reduced price of £20

To register click here

(NB space for the event is limited so your registration will be confirmed)

About the book: Guilds ruled many crafts and trades from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution. They were so widespread that some people think they must have been efficient institutions, benefiting everyone by guaranteeing quality and skills. But guilds also excluded competitors, manipulated markets, and blocked innovations. Did their benefits outweigh their costs? This book tackles the question by bringing together more than 17,000 observations of guilds in 23 European societies across eight centuries. Using colorful historical findings and clear economic reasoning, it shows how guilds intervened in markets and states to get benefits for their members. We hear the voices of honorable guild masters, underpaid journeymen, exploited apprentices, shady officials, and outraged customers. We follow the stories of the “vile encroachers” – women, migrants, Jews, gypsies, bastards, and many others – desperate to work but hunted down by the guilds as illicit competitors. We also look at the bright side. Guilds sometimes made markets work better by raising quality – but they also stopped poor consumers buying the cheap goods they needed. Guilds sometimes fostered important work skills – but they also limited human capital by denying apprenticeships to outsiders. Guilds sometimes helped transmit useful techniques – but they also blocked disruptive innovations that threatened their members. The book concludes that guilds existed so widely not because they efficiently created benefits for all, but because they provided mechanisms for two powerful groups – guild members and political elites – to capture more resources for themselves at the expense of the rest of the economy.

About the author: Sheilagh Ogilvie is Professor of Economic History in Cambridge and a Fellow of the British Academy. She has published books on German economic history, women’s history, merchant guilds, proto-industrialization, and the history of consumption. She is the author of articles on guilds, merchants, peasants, communities, serfdom, consumption, retailing, finance, historical demography, proto-industry, women’s work, social disciplining, the growth of the state, social capital, and the economic effects of historical institutions.


 Publisher’s link with endorsements: