Dutch historiography of the guilds was ‘sectarian’ throughout the nineteenth and much of the twentieth centuries. Catholics, Protestants, and National Socialists expressed appreciation for the guild system for various reasons. Marxists and Liberals took a more critical view and Liberals had the broadest following, also internationally. This study examines whether the existence spanning several centuries – half a millennium – of the guilds in the City of Utrecht is attributable to the fact that they were the backbone of the urban society. As such, they were the main, formative component. The investigation entailed exploring their economic, political, social, religious, and military role. After 1300 the City of Utrecht had no substantial wholesale industry, although the craft industry thrived. As a consequence, guilds became powerful (Chapter 2). In the early modern period guilds and guild members were more numerous than was hitherto assumed (Chapter 3). Agreements between the guilds and the municipal authorities regarding accommodations and social services indicate that they maintained close ties with urban society as a whole (Chapter 4). In the late sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries the guilds became more economically prominent, in part because they ceased to play a role in politics and military affairs. Craft guilds assumed responsibility for training in the trade, and no alternative was available for these programmes in Utrecht. Innovations were commonplace in the arts and in the textile and metal industries controlled by the guilds. Craft guilds of painters, linen weavers, and smiths negotiated with the municipal authorities for the right to hold markets. As a consequence, the market expanded and became more transparent, cultivating ever more consumer confidence. Exports by the guilds generated part of the urban affluence and brought the city its reputation in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In practice they held at best a partial monopoly (chapter 5, 6, and 7). The demands of the guilds came into play during the guild movements of 1525, the uprising of 1610, and the revolution of 1786/1787. During the interim periods, however, the guilds worked with the municipal authorities and established a relatively sustainable alliance with them (Chapter 9). Through path dependence the guilds provided increasing social services to their members and supplied them with what were known as club goods to retain their members (chapters 10 and 8). The guilds continued to feature the world of work in religious settings via symbolic expressions. They were a striking presence in Dutch Calvinist churches with the graves, chandeliers, windows, and memorial plaques. Some Catholic customs were perpetuated after the Reformation as well (Chapter 11). Because they were closely intertwined with urban society as a whole, the municipal authorities and the population did not want to abolish the guilds in the period after 1795 (Chapter 12). The conclusion is that the guilds in the City of Utrecht survived for centuries, precisely because they were the backbone of urban society. They were linked and intertwined with countless economic, political, social, religious, and even military aspects of urban society
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