Medieval Life

Business and Commerce

Stone roads, buildings, churches and marketplaces left little room for orchards, fields, and grazing, and these new cities soon lost rural roots and became more and more urbanized. Animal traffic made congested roads filthy, and water supplies were limited. Some women spent the entire day drawing water from wells.

Merchants began trading with those of other cities and treaties were formed to protect those carrying goods from one city to another, with these caravans often protected by government troops. Within a city, merchants often swore association to protect each other within the walls.

Medieval towns held markets at least once a week in the square, where stalls were set up and local merchants would sell their wares. Nearby towns may have also sent any surplus goods they could to be sold.

Fairs might be held once or twice a year that attracted foreign merchants from distant lands brining fine woolens, silks, carpets and other items not available from local shops. These fairs would attract strolling minstrels, performing tumblers and acrobats, and animal acts with trained bears and horses. Medieval fairs could last for several days.

The medieval business world became dominated by the Guilds. When merchants found they could accomplish more as a group rather than through individual effort, they banded together to form guilds. Guilds formed for bakers, butchers, grocers, millers, smiths, carpenters, weavers, mason, shoemakers, in fact, nearly every trade had its own guild. Standards such as just weights and measures evolved from the guilds, and searchers would inspect shops to ensure rules were being followed. Guilds would help members that were sick, or in trouble, and would sometimes take care of families after the member died.

Apprenticeship was how most started in a particular trade, which they would follow the rest of their lives. Apprentices were often also the master's domestic servant and helper, and his workday was long indeed. After completing an apprenticeship, the appropriate guild would examine his work and see if he could be elevated to journeyman status. This was taken quite literally, as the worker would journey from town to town to learn more about the trade. Journeymen were required to create a "masterpiece" in the presence of judges to be elevated to master status. At this point, the journeyman would place his hand on a Bible and swear allegiance to the guild and his craft.

Copyright Notice
Copyright Notice Chivalry Life Literature Health History Famines Food Romance Clothing Bathing Games Music Commerce Festivals Village Life City Life