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Medieval Sourcebook:
Documents Concerning the Origin of Guilds, 884-930

There are many theories about the origin of the merchant gilds. It is possible that they developed from the early frith and social gilds or from associations of merchants assembled at seaport towns. The selection on the London frith gilds should probably be considered as regulations imposed by royal authority. These laws may however have merely confirmed already existing gild ordinances.

Capitulary of Verneuil, 884.

C.14. We wish that the priests and clerks of the count command the villeins not to hold a meeting, which they commonly call gild, against those who steal anything. But let them refer their case to that priest who is one of the bishop's missi and to those who in these places act as clerks of the count on these matters, in order that all may be prudently and reasonably corrected.

Laws of the City of London, 930.

This is the ordinance which the bishops and reeves belonging to London have ordained and with weds confirmed, among our frith-gegildas as well eorlish as ceorlish, to supplement the dooms which were fixed at Greatanlea and at Exeter and at Thunresfeld.

Cap. iii. That we count always 10 men together, and the chief should direct the nine in each of those duties which we have all ordained; and (count) afterwards their hyndens together, and one hyndenman who shall admonish the 10 for our common benefit; and let these 11 hold the money of the hynden, and decide what they shall disburse when aught is to pay, and what they shall receive, if money should arise to us at our common suit; and let them also see that every contribution be forthcoming which we have all ordained for our common benefit, after the rate of 30 pence or one ox; so that all be fulfilled which we have ordained in our ordinances and which stands in our agreement.

Cap. iv. That each man of those who hear the summons shall help his fellow both in following the trail, and in riding with him, so long as he knows the trail (of the lost cattle). And when the trail is broken, let one man be provided from every two tithings, where the population is more numerous, and from every tithing, where it is sparse (unless more be needed), to go whither it is needful, and as all ordain.

Cap. viii. 1. That we gather to us once in every month, if we can and have leisure, the hynden-men and those who direct the tithings, as well with bytt-fylling as else it may concern us, and know what of our agreement has been executed: and let these 12 men have their refection together, and feed themselves according as they may deem themselves worthy, and deal the remains of the meat for love of God.

Cap. viii. 2. And if it then should happen that any kin be so strong and so great, within land or without land, whether 12 hynde or twy-hynde; that they refuse us our right, and stand up in defense of a thief; that we all of us ride thereto with the reeve within whose manung it may be. And also send to the reeves on both sides and ask them for the help of so many men as seems sufficient for so great a business.

Cap. viii. 9. But if we relax this peace ordinance, and the pledges that we have taken, and that the King enjoined upon us, then we may expect, or rather know for certain that these thieves will have the upper hand even more than in the past.


From: Monumenta Germaniae Historiae, Legum, Alfred Boretius & Victor Krause, eds., (Hanover, 1897), Sectio II, Tome II, p. 375; William Stubbs & H. W. C. Davis, eds., Select Charters of English Constitutional History, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913), pp. 76-77; both reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson, A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 194-195.

Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by Prof. Arkenberg.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright.Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Paul Halsall, September 1998
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