The power of the guild system which gained strength during the eleventh century created a set of criteria for the operation of any business and for the behavior of guild members. There were many guild groupings for regulating everything from commerce to art. The two main guild groups were the merchant guilds and craft guilds. These guilds helped maintain economic and social stability for their kings. Guild members adhered to strict set of rules created by guild associations that protected members from unfair practices and from the king or church, who were dependent on the taxes paid by merchants. The guilds also practiced an early form of consumer satisfaction by ensuring that products were of a certain standard. Guilds, for example, set standards for the production of goods which had to be examined and approved by a board of the guild before being sold. Price cutting was also prohibited, as was advertising. Modern antitrust laws (Wikipedia, Dec. 2, 2005) are said to have some basis in the old guild regulations. Guilds also took responsibility for their members. For example, if a member reneged on his responsibilities, the guild he belonged took on the responsibility and later collected from the guild member with interest. This kind of regimented control allowed guilds to create a unified monopoly in their individual realms. Anyone wishing to open a business had to gain guild approval before being allowed to operate a business. Merchant guilds grew in prominence with the opening of trade and the revival of long distance commerce. For example, the Haseatic League established trade alliances with merchants in the Baltic and dominated trade in the Baltic, North Seas and Northern Germany (Richardson, 2005).
The economy was not the only place the guilds controlled or influenced. They were also responsible for the development of the early education system. In the middle ages the only schools were religious. They set up schools to teach the various crafts and created a system still in use to this day.2 Other social functions of the guilds included providing a sort of health insurance and funeral services for their members. Guilds accomplished many civic duties, like policing the streets, providing dowries for orphaned girls, donated funds to the church for construction and even aided in the construction of chapels. The guilds became almost central to the emergence of a new town.
According to Betcher (2005), 'guilds usually voted as a unit, raised troops for the civic militia, and paid taxes as a group' thus allowing them to serve in the civic government.
The Guilds political powers, especially during the renaissance period, were very strong. Merchant guilds especially created a new aristocracy with their wealth and influenced political matters greatly. The strength of a nation is its' wealth and when the wealth of a nation is controlled by a certain faction, then that faction shall have influence. In the case of the merchant
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