This chapter explores how guilds defined and enforced entitlement. A first entitlement sought by any guild was to decide who could practise certain economic activities. Every guild aimed to secure the exclusive right for its members to do specific kinds of work in a particular place. A guild also secured the right to decide who could gain admission to the guild “mysteries.” To enforce these privileges, guilds erected an elaborate array of entry barriers, making admission costly or impossible for any applicant who could not satisfy conditions relating to citizenship, ethnicity, religion, occupation, wealth, property, fees, marriage, age, legitimate birth, parental occupation, ancestral “purity,” reputation, or approval by existing guild members. By limiting the number of practitioners, guilds sought, in the words of the Burgdorf shoemakers' guild in 1785, “to create a better and surer livelihood for the remainder.”
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