Guilds of Mayors and Burgesses

Andrew D. Brown

in Popular Piety in Late Medieval England

Published in print March 1995 | ISBN: 9780198205210
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191676550 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Historical Monographs

Guilds of Mayors and Burgesses

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • History of Religion


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The corporate solidarity felt among a town's elite could be expressed in a number of ways. Freedom from tolls, the right to appoint officials, and the ability to hold courts became features that were increasingly known as borough privileges. Another right was to be able to form a guild merchant which could represent the whole town; the guild would include all the enfranchised burgesses, who had often earned membership through apprenticeship to a particular craft. By the fifteenth century, the term ‘guild merchant’ had generally lapsed: town government was usually run by common councils, and burgesses gathered collectively as social and religious guilds like those of Malmesbury, even if few towns laid claim to such illustrious pedigrees. This chapter examines the function of these guilds, particularly within the context of civic unity, and how they fitted into the structure of devotional life, civic, parochial, and guild.

Keywords: guilds; burgesses; elite; guild merchant; civic unity; devotional life

Chapter.  9438 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; History of Religion

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