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Mutual Aid by P. Kropotkin

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householders united into small territorial unions--the street,
the parish, the section--and of individuals united by oath into
guilds according to their professions; the former being a produce
of the village-community origin of the city, while the second is
a subsequent growth called to life by new conditions.

To guarantee liberty, self-administration, and peace was the
chief aim of the medieval city. and labour, as we shall presently
see when speaking of the craft guilds, was its chief foundation.
But "production" did not absorb the whole attention of the
medieval economist. With his practical mind, he understood that
"consumption" must be guaranteed in order to obtain production;
and therefore, to provide for "the common first food and lodging
of poor and rich alike" (gemeine notdurft und gemach armer und
richer(46)) was the fundamental principle in each city. The
purchase of food supplies and other first necessaries (coal,
wood, etc.) before they had reached the market, or altogether in
especially favourable conditions from which others would be
excluded--the preempcio, in a word--was entirely prohibited.
Everything had to go to the market and be offered there for every
one's purchase, till the ringing of the bell had closed the
market. Then only could the retailer buy the remainder, and even
then his profit should be an "honest profit" only.(47) Moreover,
when corn was bought by a baker wholesale after the close of the
market, every citizen had the right to claim part of the corn
(about half-a-quarter) for his own use, at wholesale price, if he
did so before the final conclusion of the bargain; and
reciprocally, every baker could claim the same if the citizen
purchased corn for re-selling it. In the first case, the corn had
only to be brought to the town mill to be ground in its proper
turn for a settled price, and the bread could be baked in the
four banal, or communal oven.(48) In short, if a scarcity
visited the city, all had to suffer from it more or less; but
apart from the calamities, so long as the free cities existed no
one could die in their midst from starvation, as is unhappily too
often the case in our own times.

However, all such regulations belong to later periods of the
cities' life, while at an earlier period it was the city itself
which used to buy all food supplies for the use of the citizens.
The documents recently published by Mr. Gross are quite positive
on this point and fully support his conclusion to the effect that
the cargoes of subsistences "were purchased by certain civic
officials in the name of the town, and then distributed in shares
among the merchant burgesses, no one being allowed to buy wares
landed in the port unless the municipal authorities refused to
purchase them. This seem--she adds--to have been quite a
common practice in England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland."(49)
Even in the sixteenth century we find that common purchases of
corn were made for the "comoditie and profitt in all things of
this.... Citie and Chamber of London, and of all the Citizens and
Inhabitants of the same as moche as in us lieth"--as the Mayor
wrote in 1565.(50) In Venice, the whole of the trade in corn is
well known to have been in the hands of the city; the "quarters,"
on receiving the cereals from the board which administrated the
imports, being bound to send to every citizen's house the
quantity allotted to him.(51) In France, the city of Amiens used
to purchase salt and to distribute it to all citizens at cost
price;(52) and even now one sees in many French towns the halles
which formerly were municipal depots for corn and salt.(53) In
Russia it was a regular custom in Novgorod and Pskov.

The whole matter relative to the communal purchases for the
use of the citizens, and the manner in which they used to be
made, seems not to have yet received proper attention from the
historians of the period; but there are here and there some very
interesting facts which throw a new light upon it. Thus there is,
among Mr. Gross's documents, a Kilkenny ordinance of the year
1367, from which we learn how the prices of the goods were
established. "The merchants and the sailors," Mr. Gross writes,
"were to state on oath the first cost of the goods and the
expenses of transportation. Then the mayor of the town and two
discreet men were to name the price at which the wares were to be
sold." The same rule held good in Thurso for merchandise coming
"by sea or land." This way of "naming the price" so well answers
to the very conceptions of trade which were current in medieval
times that it must have been all but universal. To have the price
established by a third person was a very old custom; and for all
interchange within the city it certainly was a widely-spread
habit to leave the establishment of prices to "discreet men"--
to a third party--and not to the vendor or the buyer. But this
order of things takes us still further back in the history of
trade--namely, to a time when trade in staple produce was
carried on by the whole city, and the merchants were only the
commissioners, the trustees, of the city for selling the goods
which it exported. A Waterford ordinance, published also by Mr.
Gross, says "that all manere of marchandis what so ever kynde
thei be of... shal be bought by the Maire and balives which bene
commene biers [common buyers, for the town] for the time being,
and to distribute the same on freemen of the citie (the propre
goods of free citisains and inhabitants only excepted)." This
ordinance can Hardly be explained otherwise than by admitting
that all the exterior trade of the town was carried on by its
agents. Moreover, we have direct evidence of such having been the
case for Novgorod and Pskov. It was the Sovereign Novgorod and
the Sovereign Pskov who sent their caravans of merchants to
distant lands.

We know also that in nearly all medieval cities of Middle and
Western Europe, the craft guilds used to buy, as a body, all
necessary raw produce, and to sell the produce of their work
through their officials, and it is hardly possible that the same
should not have been done for exterior trade--the more so as it
is well known that up to the thirteenth century, not only all
merchants of a given city were considered abroad as responsible
in a body for debts contracted by any one of them, but the whole
city as well was responsible for the debts of each one of its
merchants. Only in the twelfth and thirteenth century the towns
on the Rhine entered into special treaties abolishing this
responsibility.(54) And finally we have the remarkable Ipswich
document published by Mr. Gross, from which document we learn
that the merchant guild of this town was constituted by all who
had the freedom of the city, and who wished to pay their
contribution ("their hanse") to the guild, the whole community
discussing all together how better to maintain the merchant
guild, and giving it certain privileges. The merchant guild of
Ipswich thus appears rather as a body of trustees of the town
than as a common private guild.

In short, the more we begin to know the mediaeval city the
more we see that it was not simply a political organization for
the protection of certain political liberties. It was an attempt
at organizing, on a much grander scale than in a village
community, a close union for mutual aid and support, for
consumption and production, and for social life altogether,
without imposing upon men the fetters of the State, but giving
full liberty of expression to the creative genius of each
separate group of individuals in art, crafts, science, commerce,
and political organization. How far this attempt has been
successful will be best seen when we have analyzed in the next
chapter the organization of labour in the medieval city and the
relations of the cities with the surrounding peasant population.


1. W. Arnold, in his Wanderungen und Ansiedelungen der deutschen
Stamme, p. 431, even maintains that one-half of the now arable
area in middle Germany must have been reclaimed from the sixth to
the ninth century. Nitzsch (Geschichte des deutschen Volkes,
Leipzig, 1883, vol. i.) shares the same opinion.

2. Leo and Botta, Histoire d'Italie, French edition, 1844, t. i.,
p. 37.

3. The composition for the stealing of a simple knife was 15
solidii and of the iron parts of a mill, 45 solidii (See on this
subject Lamprecht's Wirthschaft und Recht der Franken in Raumer's
Historisches Taschenbuch, 1883, p. 52.) According to the Riparian
law, the sword, the spear, and the iron armour of a warrior
attained the value of at least twenty-five cows, or two years of
a freeman's labour. A cuirass alone was valued in the Salic law
(Desmichels, quoted by Michelet) at as much as thirty-six bushels
of wheat.

4. The chief wealth of the chieftains, for a long time, was in
their personal domains peopled partly with prisoner slaves, but
chiefly in the above way. On the origin of property see Inama
Sternegg's Die Ausbildung der grossen Grundherrschaften in
Deutschland, in Schmoller's Forschungen, Bd. I., 1878; F. Dahn's
Urgeschichte der germanischen und romanischen Volker, Berlin,
1881; Maurer's Dorfverfassung; Guizot's Essais sur l'histoire de
France; Maine's Village Community; Botta's Histoire d'Italie;
Seebohm, Vinogradov, J. R. Green, etc.

5. See Sir Henry Maine's International Law, London, 1888.

6. Ancient Laws of Ireland, Introduction; E. Nys, Etudes de droit
international, t. i., 1896, pp. 86 seq. Among the Ossetes the
arbiters from three oldest villages enjoy a special reputation
(M. Kovalevsky's Modern Custom and Old Law, Moscow, 1886, ii.
217, Russian).

7. It is permissible to think that this conception (related to
the conception of tanistry) played an important part in the life
of the period; but research has not yet been directed that way.

1. It was distinctly stated in the charter of St. Quentin of the
year 1002 that the ransom for houses which had to be demolished
for crimes went for the city walls. The same destination was
given to the Ungeld in German cities. At Pskov the cathedral was
the bank for the fines, and from this fund money was taken for
the wails.

2. Sohm, Frankische Rechtsund Gerichtsverfassung, p. 23; also
Nitzsch, Geschechte des deutschen Volkes, i. 78.

10. See the excellent remarks on this subject in Augustin
Thierry's Lettres sur l'histoire de France. 7th Letter. The
barbarian translations of parts of the Bible are extremely
instructive on this point.

11. Thirty-six times more than a noble, according to the
Anglo-Saxon law. In the code of Rothari the slaying of a king is,
however, punished by death; but (apart from Roman influence) this
new disposition was introduced (in 646) in the Lombardian law--
as remarked by Leo and Botta--to cover the king from blood
revenge. The king being at that time the executioner of his own
sentences (as the tribe formerly was of its own sentences), he
had to be protected by a special disposition, the more so as
several Lombardian kings before Rothari had been slain in
succession (Leo and Botta, l.c., i. 66-90).

12. Kaufmann, Deutsche Geschichte, Bd. I. "Die Germanen der
Urzeit," p. 133.

13. Dr. F. Dahn, Urgeschichte der germanischen und romanischen
Volker, Berlin, 1881, Bd. I. 96.

14. If I thus follow the views long since advocated by Maurer
(Geschichte der Stadteverfassung in Deutschland, Erlangen, 1869),
it is because he has fully proved the uninterrupted evolution
from the village community to the mediaeval city, and that his
views alone can explain the universality of the communal
movement. Savigny and Eichhorn and their followers have certainly
proved that the traditions of the Roman municipia had never
totally disappeared. But they took no account of the village
community period which the barbarians lived through before they
had any cities. The fact is, that whenever mankind made a new
start in civilization, in Greece, Rome, or middle Europe, it
passed through the same stages--the tribe, the village
community, the free city, the state--each one naturally
evolving out of the preceding stage. Of course, the experience of
each preceding civilization was never lost. Greece (itself
influenced by Eastern civilizations) influenced Rome, and Rome
influenced our civilization; but each of them begin from the same
beginning--the tribe. And just as we cannot say that our states
are continuations of the Roman state, so also can we not say that
the mediaeval cities of Europe (including Scandinavia and Russia)
were a continuation of the Roman cities. They were a continuation
of the barbarian village community, influenced to a certain
extent by the traditions of the Roman towns.

15. M. Kovalevsky, Modern Customs and Ancient Laws of Russia
(Ilchester Lectures, London, 1891, Lecture 4).

16. A considerable amount of research had to be done before this
character of the so-called udyelnyi period was properly
established by the works of Byelaeff (Tales from Russian
History), Kostomaroff (The Beginnings of Autocracy in Russia),
and especially Professor Sergievich (The Vyeche and the Prince).
The English reader may find some information about this period in
the just-named work of M. Kovalevsky, in Rambaud's History of
Russia, and, in a short summary, in the article "Russia" of the
last edition of Chambers's Encyclopaedia.

17. Ferrari, Histoire des revolutions d'Italie, i. 257; Kallsen,
Die deutschen Stadte im Mittelalter, Bd. I. (Halle, 1891).

18. See the excellent remarks of Mr. G.L. Gomme as regards the
folkmote of London (The Literature of Local Institutions, London,
1886, p. 76). It must, however, be remarked that in royal cities
the folkmote never attained the independence which it assumed
elsewhere. It is even certain that Moscow and Paris were chosen
by the kings and the Church as the cradles of the future royal
authority in the State, because they did not possess the
tradition of folkmotes accustomed to act as sovereign in all

19. A. Luchaire, Les Communes francaises; also Kluckohn,
Geschichte des Gottesfrieden, 1857. L. Semichon (La paix et la
treve de Dieu, 2 vols., Paris, 1869) has tried to represent the
communal movement as issued from that institution. In reality,
the treuga Dei, like the league started under Louis le Gros for
the defence against both the robberies of the nobles and the
Norman invasions, was a thoroughly popular movement. The only
historian who mentions this last league--that is, Vitalis--
describes it as a "popular community" ("Considerations sur
l'histoire de France," in vol. iv. of Aug. Thierry's OEuvres,
Paris, 1868, p. 191 and note).

20. Ferrari, i. 152, 263, etc.

21. Perrens, Histoire de Florence, i. 188; Ferrari, l.c., i. 283.

22. Aug. Thierry, Essai sur l'histoire du Tiers Etat, Paris,
1875, p. 414, note.

23. F. Rocquain, "La Renaissance au XIIe siecle," in Etudes sur
l'histoire de France, Paris, 1875, pp. 55-117.

24. N. Kostomaroff, "The Rationalists of the Twelfth Century," in
his Monographies and Researches (Russian).

25. Very interesting facts relative to the universality of guilds
will be found in "Two Thousand Years of Guild Life," by Rev. J.
M. Lambert, Hull, 1891. On the Georgian amkari, see S.
Eghiazarov, Gorodskiye Tsekhi ("Organization of Transcaucasian
Amkari"), in Memoirs of the Caucasian Geographical Society, xiv.
2, 1891.

26. J.D. Wunderer's "Reisebericht" in Fichard's Frankfurter
Archiv, ii. 245; quoted by Janssen, Geschichte des deutschen
Volkes, i. 355.

27. Dr. Leonard Ennen, Der Dom zu Koln, Historische Einleitung,
Koln, 1871, pp. 46, 50.

28. See previous chapter.

29. Kofod Ancher, Om gamle Danske Gilder og deres Undergang,
Copenhagen, 1785. Statutes of a Knu guild.

30. Upon the position of women in guilds, see Miss Toulmin
Smith's introductory remarks to the English Guilds of her father.
One of the Cambridge statutes (p. 281) of the year 1503 is quite
positive in the following sentence: "Thys statute is made by the
comyne assent of all the bretherne and sisterne of alhallowe

31. In medieval times, only secret aggression was treated as a
murder. Blood-revenge in broad daylight was justice; and slaying
in a quarrel was not murder, once the aggressor showed his
willingness to repent and to repair the wrong he had done. Deep
traces of this distinction still exist in modern criminal law,
especially in Russia.

32. Kofod Ancher, l.c. This old booklet contains much that has
been lost sight of by later explorers.

33. They played an important part in the revolts of the serfs,
and were therefore prohibited several times in succession in the
second half of the ninth century. Of course, the king's
prohibitions remained a dead letter.

34. The medieval Italian painters were also organized in guilds,
which became at a later epoch Academies of art. If the Italian
art of those times is impressed with so much individuality that
we distinguish, even now, between the different schools of Padua,
Bassano, Treviso, Verona, and so on, although all these cities
were under the sway of Venice, this was due--J. Paul Richter
remarks--to the fact that the painters of each city belonged to
a separate guild, friendly with the guilds of other towns, but
leading a separate existence. The oldest guild-statute known is
that of Verona, dating from 1303, but evidently copied from some
much older statute. "Fraternal assistance in necessity of
whatever kind," "hospitality towards strangers, when passing
through the town, as thus information may be obtained about
matters which one may like to learn," and "obligation of offering
comfort in case of debility" are among the obligations of the
members (Nineteenth Century, Nov. 1890, and Aug. 1892).

35. The chief works on the artels are named in the article
"Russia" of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th edition, p. 84.

36. See, for instance, the texts of the Cambridge guilds given by
Toulmin Smith (English Guilds, London, 1870, pp. 274-276), from
which it appears that the "generall and principall day" was the
"eleccioun day;" or, Ch. M. Clode's The Early History of the
Guild of the Merchant Taylors, London, 1888, i. 45; and so on.
For the renewal of allegiance, see the Jomsviking saga, mentioned
in Pappenheim's Altdanische Schutzgilden, Breslau, 1885, p. 67.
It appears very probable that when the guilds began to be
prosecuted, many of them inscribed in their statutes the meal day
only, or their pious duties, and only alluded to the judicial
function of the guild in vague words; but this function did not
disappear till a very much later time. The question, "Who will be
my judge?" has no meaning now, since the State has appropriated
for its bureaucracy the organization of justice; but it was of
primordial importance in medieval times, the more so as
self-jurisdiction meant self-administration. It must also be
remarked that the translation of the Saxon and Danish
"guild-bretheren," or "brodre," by the Latin convivii must also
have contributed to the above confusion.

37. See the excellent remarks upon the frith guild by J.R. Green
and Mrs. Green in The Conquest of England, London, 1883, pp.

38. None

39. Recueil des ordonnances des rois de France, t. xii. 562;
quoted by Aug. Thierry in Considerations sur l'histoire de
France, p. 196, ed. 12mo.

40. A. Luchaire, Les Communes francaises, pp, 45-46.

41. Guilbert de Nogent, De vita sua, quoted by Luchaire, l.c., p.

42. Lebret, Histoire de Venise, i. 393; also Marin, quoted by Leo
and Botta in Histoire de l'Italie, French edition, 1844, t. i

43. Dr. W. Arnold, Verfassungsgeschichte der deutschen
Freistadte, 1854, Bd. ii. 227 seq.; Ennen, Geschichte der Stadt
Koeln, Bd. i. 228-229; also the documents published by Ennen and

44. Conquest of England, 1883, p. 453.

45. Byelaeff, Russian History, vols. ii. and iii.

46. W. Gramich, Verfassungsund Verwaltungsgeschichte der Stadt
Wurzburg im 13. bis zum 15. Jahrhundert, Wurzburg, 1882, p. 34.

47. When a boat brought a cargo of coal to Wurzburg, coal could
only be sold in retail during the first eight days, each family
being entitled to no more than fifty basketfuls. The remaining
cargo could be sold wholesale, but the retailer was allowed to
raise a zittlicher profit only, the unzittlicher, or dishonest
profit, being strictly forbidden (Gramich, l.c.). Same in London
(Liber albus, quoted by Ochenkowski, p. 161), and, in fact,

48. See Fagniez, Etudes sur l'industrie et la classe industrielle
a Paris au XIIIme et XIVme siecle, Paris, 1877, pp. 155 seq. It
hardly need be added that the tax on bread, and on beer as well,
was settled after careful experiments as to the quantity of bread
and beer which could be obtained from a given amount of corn. The
Amiens archives contain the minutes of such experiences (A. de
Calonne, l.c. pp. 77, 93). Also those of London (Ochenkowski,
England's wirthschaftliche Entwickelung, etc., Jena, 1879, p.

49. Ch. Gross, The Guild Merchant, Oxford, 1890, i. 135. His
documents prove that this practice existed in Liverpool (ii.
148-150), Waterford in Ireland, Neath in Wales, and Linlithgow
and Thurso in Scotland. Mr. Gross's texts also show that the
purchases were made for distribution, not only among the merchant
burgesses, but "upon all citsains and commynalte" (p. 136, note),
or, as the Thurso ordinance of the seventeenth century runs, to
"make offer to the merchants, craftsmen, and inhabitants of the
said burgh, that they may have their proportion of the same,
according to their necessitys and ability."

50. The Early History of the Guild of Merchant Taylors, by
Charles M. Clode, London, 1888, i. 361, appendix 10; also the
following appendix which shows that the same purchases were made
in 1546.

51. Cibrario, Les conditions economiques de l'Italie au temps de
Dante, Paris, 1865, p. 44.

52. A. de Calonne, La vie municipale au XVme siecle dans le Nord
de la France, Paris, 1880, pp. 12-16. In 1485 the city permitted
the export to Antwerp of a certain quantity of corn, "the
inhabitants of Antwerp being always ready to be agreeable to the
merchants and burgesses of Amiens" (ibid., pp. 75-77 and texts).

53. A. Babeau, La ville sous l'ancien regime, Paris, 1880.

54. Ennen, Geschichte der Stadt Koln, i. 491, 492, also texts.



Likeness and diversity among the medieval cities. The
craftguilds: State-attributes in each of them. Attitude of the
city towards the peasants; attempts to free them. The lords.
Results achieved by the medieval city: in arts, in learning.
Causes of decay.

The medieval cities were not organized upon some preconceived
plan in obedience to the will of an outside legislator. Each of
them was a natural growth in the full sense of the word--an
always varying result of struggle between various forces which
adjusted and re-adjusted themselves in conformity with their
relative energies, the chances of their conflicts, and the
support they found in their surroundings. Therefore, there are
not two cities whose inner organization and destinies would have
been identical. Each one, taken separately, varies from century
to century. And yet, when we cast a broad glance upon all the
cities of Europe, the local and national unlikenesses disappear,
and we are struck to find among all of them a wonderful
resemblance, although each has developed for itself,
independently from the others, and in different conditions. A
small town in the north of Scotland, with its population of
coarse labourers and fishermen; a rich city of Flanders, with its
world-wide commerce, luxury, love of amusement and animated life;
an Italian city enriched by its intercourse with the East, and
breeding within its walls a refined artistic taste and
civilization; and a poor, chiefly agricultural, city in the marsh
and lake district of Russia, seem to have little in common. And
nevertheless, the leading lines of their organization, and the
spirit which animates them, are imbued with a strong family
likeness. Everywhere we see the same federations of small
communities and guilds, the same "sub-towns" round the mother
city, the same folkmote, and the same insigns of its
independence. The defensor of the city, under different names and
in different accoutrements, represents the same authority and
interests; food supplies, labour and commerce, are organized on
closely similar lines; inner and outer struggles are fought with
like ambitions; nay, the very formulae used in the struggles, as
also in the annals, the ordinances, and the rolls, are identical;
and the architectural monuments, whether Gothic, Roman, or
Byzantine in style, express the same aspirations and the same
ideals; they are conceived and built in the same way. Many
dissemblances are mere differences of age, and those disparities
between sister cities which are real are repeated in different
parts of Europe. The unity of the leading idea and the identity
of origin make up for differences of climate, geographical
situation, wealth, language and religion. This is why we can
speak of the medieval city as of a well-defined phase of
civilization; and while every research insisting upon local and
individual differences is most welcome, we may still indicate the
chief lines of development which are common to all cities.(1)

There is no doubt that the protection which used to be
accorded to the market-place from the earliest barbarian times
has played an important, though not an exclusive, part in the
emancipation of the medieval city. The early barbarians knew no
trade within their village communities; they traded with
strangers only, at certain definite spots, on certain determined
days. And, in order that the stranger might come to the
barter-place without risk of being slain for some feud which
might be running between two kins, the market was always placed
under the special protection of all kins. It was inviolable, like
the place of worship under the shadow of which it was held. With
the Kabyles it is still annaya, like the footpath along which
women carry water from the well; neither must be trodden upon in
arms, even during inter-tribal wars. In medieval times the market
universally enjoyed the same protection.(2) No feud could be
prosecuted on the place whereto people came to trade, nor within
a certain radius from it; and if a quarrel arose in the motley
crowd of buyers and sellers, it had to be brought before those
under whose protection the market stood--the community's
tribunal, or the bishop's, the lord's, or the king's judge. A
stranger who came to trade was a guest, and he went on under this
very name. Even the lord who had no scruples about robbing a
merchant on the high road, respected the Weichbild, that is, the
pole which stood in the market-place and bore either the king's
arms, or a glove, or the image of the local saint, or simply a
cross, according to whether the market was under the protection
of the king, the lord, the local church, or the folkmote--the

It is easy to understand how the self-jurisdiction of the
city could develop out of the special jurisdiction in the
market-place, when this last right was conceded, willingly or
not, to the city itself. And such an origin of the city's
liberties, which can be traced in very many cases, necessarily
laid a special stamp upon their subsequent development. It gave a
predominance to the trading part of the community. The burghers
who possessed a house in the city at the time being, and were
co-owners in the town-lands, constituted very often a merchant
guild which held in its hands the city's trade; and although at
the outset every burgher, rich and poor, could make part of the
merchant guild, and the trade itself seems to have been carried
on for the entire city by its trustees, the guild gradually
became a sort of privileged body. It jealously prevented the
outsiders who soon began to flock into the free cities from
entering the guild, and kept the advantages resulting from trade
for the few "families" which had been burghers at the time of the
emancipation. There evidently was a danger of a merchant
oligarchy being thus constituted. But already in the tenth, and
still more during the two next centuries, the chief crafts, also
organized in guilds, were powerful enough to check the oligarchic
tendencies of the merchants.

The craft guild was then a common seller of its produce and a
common buyer of the raw materials, and its members were merchants
and manual workers at the same time. Therefore, the predominance
taken by the old craft guilds from the very beginnings of the
free city life guaranteed to manual labour the high position
which it afterwards occupied in the city.(4) In fact, in a
medieval city manual labour was no token of inferiority; it bore,
on the contrary, traces of the high respect it had been kept in
in the village community. Manual labour in a "mystery" was
considered as a pious duty towards the citizens: a public
function (Amt), as honourable as any other. An idea of "justice"
to the community, of "right" towards both producer and consumer,
which would seem so extravagant now, penetrated production and
exchange. The tanner's, the cooper's, or the shoemaker's work
must be "just," fair, they wrote in those times. Wood, leather or
thread which are used by the artisan must be "right"; bread must
be baked "in justice," and so on. Transport this language into
our present life, and it would seem affected and unnatural; but
it was natural and unaffected then, because the medieval artisan
did not produce for an unknown buyer, or to throw his goods into
an unknown market. He produced for his guild first; for a
brotherhood of men who knew each other, knew the technics of the
craft, and, in naming the price of each product, could appreciate
the skill displayed in its fabrication or the labour bestowed
upon it. Then the guild, not the separate producer, offered the
goods for sale in the community, and this last, in its turn,
offered to the brotherhood of allied communities those goods
which were exported, and assumed responsibility for their
quality. With such an organization, it was the ambition of each
craft not to offer goods of inferior quality, and technical
defects or adulterations became a matter concerning the whole
community, because, an ordinance says, "they would destroy public
confidence."(5) Production being thus a social duty, placed
under the control of the whole amitas, manual labour could not
fall into the degraded condition which it occupies now, so long
as the free city was living.

A difference between master and apprentice, or between master
and worker (compayne, Geselle), existed but in the medieval
cities from their very beginnings; this was at the outset a mere
difference of age and skill, not of wealth and power. After a
seven years' apprenticeship, and after having proved his
knowledge and capacities by a work of art, the apprentice became
a master himself. And only much later, in the sixteenth century,
after the royal power had destroy ed the city and the craft
organization, was it possible to become master in virtue of
simple inheritance or wealth. But this was also the time of a
general decay in medieval industries and art.

There was not much room for hired work in the early
flourishing periods of the medieval cities, still less for
individual hirelings. The work of the weavers, the archers, the
smiths, the bakers, and so on, was performed for the craft and
the city; and when craftsmen were hired in the building trades,
they worked as temporary corporations (as they still do in the
Russian artels), whose work was paid en bloc. Work for a master
began to multiply only later on; but even in this case the worker
was paid better than he is paid now, even in this country, and
very much better than he used to be paid all over Europe in the
first half of this century. Thorold Rogers has familiarized
English readers with this idea; but the same is true for the
Continent as well, as is shown by the researches of Falke and
Schonberg, and by many occasional indications. Even in the
fifteenth century a mason, a carpenter, or a smith worker would
be paid at Amiens four sols a day, which corresponded to
forty-eight pounds of bread, or to the eighth part of a small ox
(bouvard). In Saxony, the salary of the Geselle in the building
trade was such that, to put it in Falke's words, he could buy
with his six days' wages three sheep and one pair of shoes.(6)
The donations of workers (Geselle) to cathedrals also bear
testimony of their relative well-being, to say nothing of the
glorious donations of certain craft guilds nor of what they used
to spend in festivities and pageants.(7) In fact, the more we
learn about the medieval city, the more we are convinced that at
no time has labour enjoyed such conditions of prosperity and such
respect as when city life stood at its highest.

More than that; not only many aspirations of our modern
radicals were already realized in the middle ages, but much of
what is described now as Utopian was accepted then as a matter of
fact. We are laughed at when we say that work must be pleasant,
but--"every one must be pleased with his work," a medieval
Kuttenberg ordinance says, "and no one shall, while doing nothing
(mit nichts thun), appropriate for himself what others have
produced by application and work, because laws must be a shield
for application and work."(8) And amidst all present talk about
an eight hours' day, it may be well to remember an ordinance of
Ferdinand the First relative to the Imperial coal mines, which
settled the miner's day at eight hours, "as it used to be of old"
(wie vor Alters herkommen), and work on Saturday afternoon was
prohibited. Longer hours were very rare, we are told by Janssen,
while shorter hours were of common occurrence. In this country,
in the fifteenth century, Rogers says, "the workmen worked only
forty-eight hours a week."(9) The Saturday half-holiday, too,
which we consider as a modern conquest, was in reality an old
medieval institution; it was bathing-time for a great part of the
community, while Wednesday afternoon was bathing-time for the
Geselle.(10) And although school meals did not exist--probably
because no children went hungry to school--a distribution of
bath-money to the children whose parents found difficulty in
providing it was habitual in several places As to Labour
Congresses, they also were a regular Feature of the middles ages.
In some parts of Germany craftsmen of the same trade, belonging
to different communes, used to come together every year to
discuss questions relative to their trade, the years of
apprenticeship, the wandering years, the wages, and so on; and in
1572, the Hanseatic towns formally recognized the right of the
crafts to come together at periodical congresses, and to take any
resolutions, so long as they were not contrary to the cities'
rolls, relative to the quality of goods. Such Labour Congresses,
partly international like the Hansa itself, are known to have
been held by bakers, founders, smiths, tanners, sword-makers and

The craft organization required, of course, a close
supervision of the craftsmen by the guild, and special jurates
were always nominated for that purpose. But it is most remarkable
that, so long as the cities lived their free life, no complaints
were heard about the supervision; while, after the State had
stepped in, confiscating the property of the guilds and
destroying their independence in favour of its own bureaucracy,
the complaints became simply countless.(12) On the other hand,
the immensity of progress realized in all arts under the
mediaeval guild system is the best proof that the system was no
hindrance to individual initiative.(13) The fact is, that the
medieval guild, like the medieval parish, "street," or "quarter,"
was not a body of citizens, placed under the control of State
functionaries; it was a union of all men connected with a given
trade: jurate buyers of raw produce, sellers of manufactured
goods, and artisans--masters, "compaynes," and apprentices. For
the inner organization of the trade its assembly was sovereign,
so long as it did not hamper the other guilds, in which case the
matter was brought before the guild of the guilds--the city.
But there was in it something more than that. It had its own
self-jurisdiction, its own military force, its own general
assemblies, its own traditions of struggles, glory, and
independence, its own relations with other guilds of the same
trade in other cities: it had, in a word, a full organic life
which could only result from the integrality of the vital
functions. When the town was called to arms, the guild appeared
as a separate company (Schaar), armed with its own arms (or its
own guns, lovingly decorated by the guild, at a subsequent
epoch), under its own self-elected commanders. It was, in a word,
as independent a unit of the federation as the republic of Uri or
Geneva was fifty years ago in the Swiss Confederation. So that,
to compare it with a modern trade union, divested of all
attributes of State sovereignty, and reduced to a couple of
functions of secondary importance, is as unreasonable as to
compare Florence or Brugge with a French commune vegetating under
the Code Napoleon, or with a Russian town placed under Catherine
the Second's municipal law. Both have elected mayors, and the
latter has also its craft corporations; but the difference is--
all the difference that exists between Florence and
Fontenay-les-Oies or Tsarevokokshaisk, or between a Venetian doge
and a modern mayor who lifts his hat before the sous-prefet's

The medieval guilds were capable of maintaining their
independence; and, later on, especially in the fourteenth
century, when, in consequence of several causes which shall
presently be indicated, the old municipal life underwent a deep
modification, the younger crafts proved strong enough to conquer
their due share in the management of the city affairs. The
masses, organized in "minor" arts, rose to wrest the power out of
the hands of a growing oligarchy, and mostly succeeded in this
task, opening again a new era of prosperity. True, that in some
cities the uprising was crushed in blood, and mass decapitations
of workers followed, as was the case in Paris in 1306, and in
Cologne in 1371. In such cases the city's liberties rapidly fell
into decay, and the city was gradually subdued by the central
authority. But the majority of the towns had preserved enough of
vitality to come out of the turmoil with a new life and
vigour.(14) A new period of rejuvenescence was their reward. New
life was infused, and it found its expression in splendid
architectural monuments, in a new period of prosperity, in a
sudden progress of technics and invention, and in a new
intellectual movement leading to the Renaissance and to the

The life of a mediaeval city was a succession of hard battles
to conquer liberty and to maintain it. True, that a strong and
tenacious race of burghers had developed during those fierce
contests; true, that love and worship of the mother city had been
bred by these struggles, and that the grand things achieved by
the mediaeval communes were a direct outcome of that love. But
the sacrifices which the communes had to sustain in the battle
for freedom were, nevertheless, cruel, and left deep traces of
division on their inner life as well. Very few cities had
succeeded, under a concurrence of favourable circumstances, in
obtaining liberty at one stroke, and these few mostly lost it
equally easily; while the great number had to fight fifty or a
hundred years in succession, often more, before their rights to
free life had been recognized, and another hundred years to found
their liberty on a firm basis--the twelfth century charters
thus being but one of the stepping-stones to freedom.(15) In
reality, the mediaeval city was a fortified oasis amidst a
country plunged into feudal submission, and it had to make room
for itself by the force of its arms. In consequence of the causes
briefly alluded to in the preceding chapter, each village
community had gradually fallen under the yoke of some lay or
clerical lord. His house had grown to be a castle, and his
brothers-in-arms were now the scum of adventurers, always ready
to plunder the peasants. In addition to three days a week which
the peasants had to work for the lord, they had also to bear all
sorts of exactions for the right to sow and to crop, to be gay or
sad, to live, to marry, or to die. And, worst of all, they were
continually plundered by the armed robbers of some neighbouring
lord, who chose to consider them as their master's kin, and to
take upon them, and upon their cattle and crops, the revenge for
a feud he was fighting against their owner. Every meadow, every
field, every river, and road around the city, and every man upon
the land was under some lord.

The hatred of the burghers towards the feudal barons has
found a most characteristic expression in the wording of the
different charters which they compelled them to sign. Heinrich V.
is made to sign in the charter granted to Speier in 1111, that he
frees the burghers from "the horrible and execrable law of
mortmain, through which the town has been sunk into deepest
poverty" (von dem scheusslichen und nichtswurdigen Gesetze,
welches gemein Budel genannt wird, Kallsen, i. 307). The coutume
of Bayonne, written about 1273, contains such passages as these:
"The people is anterior to the lords. It is the people, more
numerous than all others, who, desirous of peace, has made the
lords for bridling and knocking down the powerful ones, "and so
on (Giry, Etablissements de Rouen, i. 117, Quoted by Luchaire, p.
24). A charter submitted for King Robert's signature is equally
characteristic. He is made to say in it: "I shall rob no oxen nor
other animals. I shall seize no merchants, nor take their moneys,
nor impose ransom. From Lady Day to the All Saints' Day I shall
seize no horse, nor mare, nor foals, in the meadows. I shall not
burn the mills, nor rob the flour... I shall offer no protection
to thieves," etc. (Pfister has published that document,
reproduced by Luchaire). The charter "granted" by the Besancon
Archbishop Hugues, in which he has been compelled to enumerate
all the mischiefs due to his mortmain rights, is equally
characteristic.(16) And so on.

Freedom could not be maintained in such surroundings, and the
cities were compelled to carry on the war outside their walls.
The burghers sent out emissaries to lead revolt in the villages;
they received villages into their corporations, and they waged
direct war against the nobles. It Italy, where the land was
thickly sprinkled with feudal castles, the war assumed heroic
proportions, and was fought with a stern acrimony on both sides.
Florence sustained for seventy-seven years a succession of bloody
wars, in order to free its contado from the nobles; but when the
conquest had been accomplished (in 1181) all had to begin anew.
The nobles rallied; they constituted their own leagues in
opposition to the leagues of the towns, and, receiving fresh
support from either the Emperor or the Pope, they made the war
last for another 130 years. The same took place in Rome, in
Lombardy, all over Italy.

Prodigies of valour, audacity, and tenaciousness were
displayed by the citizens in these wars. But the bows and the
hatchets of the arts and crafts had not always the upper hand in
their encounters with the armour-clad knights, and many castles
withstood the ingenious siege-machinery and the perseverance of
the citizens. Some cities, like Florence, Bologna, and many towns
in France, Germany, and Bohemia, succeeded in emancipating the
surrounding villages, and they were rewarded for their efforts by
an extraordinary prosperity and tranquillity. But even here, and
still more in the less strong or less impulsive towns, the
merchants and artisans, exhausted by war, and misunderstanding
their own interests, bargained over the peasants' heads. They
compelled the lord to swear allegiance to the city; his country
castle was dismantled, and he agreed to build a house and to
reside in the city, of which he became a co-burgher
(com-bourgeois, con-cittadino); but he maintained in return most
of his rights upon the peasants, who only won a partial relief
from their burdens. The burgher could not understand that equal
rights of citizenship might be granted to the peasant upon whose
food supplies he had to rely, and a deep rent was traced between
town and village. In some cases the peasants simply changed
owners, the city buying out the barons' rights and selling them
in shares to her own citizens.(17) Serfdom was maintained, and
only much later on, towards the end of the thirteenth century, it
was the craft revolution which undertook to put an end to it, and
abolished personal servitude, but dispossessed at the same time
the serfs of the land.(18) It hardly need be added that the
fatal results of such policy were soon felt by the cities
themselves; the country became the city's enemy.

The war against the castles had another bad effect. It
involved the cities in a long succession of mutual wars, which
have given origin to the theory, till lately in vogue, namely,
that the towns lost their independence through their own
jealousies and mutual fights. The imperialist historians have
especially supported this theory, which, however, is very much
undermined now by modern research. It is certain that in Italy
cities fought each other with a stubborn animosity, but nowhere
else did such contests attain the same proportions; and in Italy
itself the city wars, especially those of the earlier period, had
their special causes. They were (as was already shown by Sismondi
and Ferrari) a mere continuation of the war against the castles--
the free municipal and federative principle unavoidably
entering into a fierce contest with feudalism, imperialism, and
papacy. Many towns which had but partially shaken off the yoke of
the bishop, the lord, or the Emperor, were simply driven against
the free cities by the nobles, the Emperor, and Church, whose
policy was to divide the cities and to arm them against each
other. These special circumstances (partly reflected on to
Germany also) explain why the Italian towns, some of which
Sollght support with the Emperor to combat the Pope, while the
others sought support from the Church to resist the Emperor, were
soon divided into a Gibelin and a Guelf camp, and why the same
division appeared in each separate city.(19)

The immense economical progress realized by most italian
cities just at the time when these wars were hottest,(20) and
the alliances so easily concluded between towns, still better
characterize those struggles and further undermine the above
theory. Already in the years 1130-1150 powerful leagues came into
existence; and a few years later, when Frederick Barbarossa
invaded Italy and, supported by the nobles and some retardatory
cities, marched against Milan, popular enthusiasm was roused in
many towns by popular preachers. Crema, Piacenza, Brescia,
Tortona, etc., went to the rescue; the banners of the guilds of
Verona, Padua, Vicenza, and Trevisa floated side by side in the
cities' camp against the banners of the Emperor and the nobles.
Next year the Lombardian League came into existence, and sixty
years later we see it reinforced by many other cities, and
forming a lasting organization which had half of its federal
war-chest in Genoa and the other half in Venice.(21) In Tuscany,
Florence headed another powerful league, to which Lucca, Bologna,
Pistoia, etc., belonged, and which played an important part in
crushing down the nobles in middle Italy, while smaller leagues
were of common occurrence. It is thus certain that although petty
jealousies undoubtedly existed, and discord could be easily sown,
they did not prevent the towns from uniting together for the
common defence of liberty. Only later on, when separate cities
became little States, wars broke out between them, as always must
be the case when States struggle for supremacy or colonies.

Similar leagues were formed in Germany for the same purpose.
When, under the successors of Conrad, the land was the prey of
interminable feuds between the nobles, the Westphalian towns
concluded a league against the knights, one of the clauses of
which was never to lend money to a knight who would continue to
conceal stolen goods.(22) When "the knights and the nobles lived
on plunder, and murdered whom they chose to murder," as the
Wormser Zorn complains, the cities on the Rhine (Mainz, Cologne,
Speier, Strasburg, and Basel) took the initiative of a league
which soon numbered sixty allied towns, repressed the robbers,
and maintained peace. Later on, the league of the towns of
Suabia, divided into three "peace districts" (Augsburg,
Constance, and Ulm), had the same purpose. And even when such
leagues were broken,(23) they lived long enough to show that
while the supposed peacemakers--the kings, the emperors, and
the Church-fomented discord, and were themselves helpless against
the robber knights, it was from the cities that the impulse came
for re-establishing peace and union. The cities--not the
emperors--were the real makers of the national unity.(24)

Similar federations were organized for the same purpose among
small villages, and now that attention has been drawn to this
subject by Luchaire we may expect soon to learn much more about
them. Villages joined into small federations in the contado of
Florence, so also in the dependencies of Novgorod and Pskov. As
to France, there is positive evidence of a federation of
seventeen peasant villages which has existed in the Laonnais for
nearly a hundred years (till 1256), and has fought hard for its
independence. Three more peasant republics, which had sworn
charters similar to those of Laon and Soissons, existed in the
neighbourhood of Laon, and, their territories being contiguous,
they supported each other in their liberation wars. Altogether,
Luchaire is of the opinion that many such federations must have
come into existence in France in the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries, but that documents relative to them are mostly lost.
Of course, being unprotected by walls, they could easily be
crushed down by the kings and the lords; but in certain
favourable circumstances, when they found support in a league of
towns and protection in their mountains, such peasant republics
became independent units of the Swiss Confederation.(25)

As to unions between cities for peaceful purposes, they were
of quite common occurrence. The intercourse which had been
established during the period of liberation was not interrupted
afterwards. Sometimes, when the scabini of a German town, having
to pronounce judgment in a new or complicated case, declared that
they knew not the sentence (des Urtheiles nicht weise zu sein),
they sent delegates to another city to get the sentence. The same
happened also in France;(26) while Forli and Ravenna are known
to have mutually naturalized their citizens and granted them full
rights in both cities. To submit a contest arisen between two
towns, or within a city, to another commune which was invited to
act as arbiter, was also in the spirit of the times.(27) As to
commercial treaties between cities, they were quite
habitual.(28) Unions for regulating the production and the sizes
of casks which were used for the commerce in wine, "herring
unions," and so on, were mere precursors of the great commercial
federations of the Flemish Hansa, and, later on, of the great
North German Hansa, the history of which alone might contribute
pages and pages to illustrate the federation spirit which
permeated men at that time. It hardly need be added, that through
the Hanseatic unions the medieval cities have contributed more to
the development of international intercourse, navigation, and
maritime discovery than all the States of the first seventeen
centuries of our era.

In a word, federations between small territorial units, as
well as among men united by common pursuits within their
respective guilds, and federations between cities and groups of
cities constituted the very essence of life and thought during
that period. The first five of the second decade of centuries of
our era may thus be described as an immense attempt at securing
mutual aid and support on a grand scale, by means of the
principles of federation and association carried on through all
manifestations of human life and to all possible degrees. This
attempt was attended with success to a very great extent. It
united men formerly divided; it secured them a very great deal of
freedom, and it tenfolded their forces. At a time when
particularism was bred by so many agencies, and the causes of
discord and jealousy might have been so numerous, it is
gratifying to see that cities scattered over a wide continent had
so much in common, and were so ready to confederate for the
prosecution of so many common aims. They succumbed in the long
run before powerful enemies; not having understood the mutual-aid
principle widely enough, they themselves committed fatal faults;
but they did not perish through their own jealousies, and their
errors were not a want of federation spirit among themselves.

The results of that new move which mankind made in the
medieval city were immense. At the beginning of the eleventh
century the towns of Europe were small clusters of miserable
huts, adorned but with low clumsy churches, the builders of which
hardly knew how to make an arch; the arts, mostly consisting of
some weaving and forging, were in their infancy; learning was
found in but a few monasteries. Three hundred and fifty years
later, the very face of Europe had been changed. The land was
dotted with rich cities, surrounded by immense thick walls which
were embellished by towers and gates, each of them a work of art
in itself. The cathedrals, conceived in a grand style and
profusely decorated, lifted their bell-towers to the skies,
displaying a purity of form and a boldness of imagination which
we now vainly strive to attain. The crafts and arts had risen to
a degree of perfection which we can hardly boast of having
superseded in many directions, if the inventive skill of the
worker and the superior finish of his work be appreciated higher
than rapidity of fabrication. The navies of the free cities
furrowed in all directions the Northern and the Southern
Mediterranean; one effort more, and they would cross the oceans.
Over large tracts of land well-being had taken the place of
misery; learning had grown and spread. The methods of science had
been elaborated; the basis of natural philosophy had been laid
down; and the way had been paved for all the mechanical
inventions of which our own times are so proud. Such were the
magic changes accomplished in Europe in less than four hundred
years. And the losses which Europe sustained through the loss of
its free cities can only be understood when we compare the
seventeenth century with the fourteenth or the thirteenth. The
prosperity which formerly characterized Scotland, Germany, the
plains of Italy, was gone. The roads had fallen into an abject
state, the cities were depopulated, labour was brought into
slavery, art had vanished, commerce itself was decaying.(29)

If the medieval cities had bequeathed to us no written
documents to testify of their splendour, and left nothing behind
but the monuments of building art which we see now all over
Europe, from Scotland to Italy, and from Gerona in Spain to
Breslau in Slavonian territory, we might yet conclude that the
times of independent city life were times of the greatest
development of human intellect during the Christian era down to
the end of the eighteenth century. On looking, for instance, at a
medieval picture representing Nuremberg with its scores of towers
and lofty spires, each of which bore the stamp of free creative
art, we can hardly conceive that three hundred years before the
town was but a collection of miserable hovels. And our admiration
grows when we go into the details of the architecture and
decorations of each of the countless churches, bell-towers,
gates, and communal houses which are scattered all over Europe as
far east as Bohemia and the now dead towns of Polish Galicia. Not
only Italy, that mother of art, but all Europe is full of such
monuments. The very fact that of all arts architecture--a
social art above all--had attained the highest development, is
significant in itself. To be what it was, it must have originated
from an eminently social life.

Medieval architecture attained its grandeur--not only
because it was a natural development of handicraft; not only
because each building, each architectural decoration, had been
devised by men who knew through the experience of their own hands
what artistic effects can be obtained from stone, iron, bronze,
or even from simple logs and mortar; not only because, each
monument was a result of collective experience, accumulated in
each "mystery" or craft(30)--it was grand because it was born
out of a grand idea. Like Greek art, it sprang out of a
conception of brotherhood and unity fostered by the city. It had
an audacity which could only be won by audacious struggles and
victories; it had that expression of vigour, because vigour
permeated all the life of the city. A cathedral or a communal
house symbolized the grandeur of an organism of which every mason
and stone-cutter was the builder, and a medieval building appears--
not as a solitary effort to which thousands of slaves would
have contributed the share assigned them by one man's
imagination; all the city contributed to it. The lofty bell-tower
rose upon a structure, grand in itself, in which the life of the
city was throbbing--not upon a meaningless scaffold like the
Paris iron tower, not as a sham structure in stone intended to
conceal the ugliness of an iron frame, as has been done in the
Tower Bridge. Like the Acropolis of Athens, the cathedral of a
medieval city was intended to glorify the grandeur of the
victorious city, to symbolize the union of its crafts, to express
the glory of each citizen in a city of his own creation. After
having achieved its craft revolution, the city often began a new
cathedral in order to express the new, wider, and broader union
which had been called into life.

The means at hand for these grand undertakings were
disproportionately small. Cologne Cathedral was begun with a
yearly outlay of but 500 marks; a gift of 100 marks was inscribed
as a grand donation;(31) and even when the work approached
completion, and gifts poured in in proportion, the yearly outlay
in money stood at about 5,000 marks, and never exceeded 14,000.
The cathedral of Basel was built with equally small means. But
each corporation contributed its part of stone, work, and
decorative genius to their common monument. Each guild expressed
in it its political conceptions, telling in stone or in bronze
the history of the city, glorifying the principles of "Liberty,
equality, and fraternity,"(32) praising the city's allies, and
sending to eternal fire its enemies. And each guild bestowed its
love upon the communal monument by richly decorating it with
stained windows, paintings, "gates, worthy to be the gates of
Paradise," as Michel Angelo said, or stone decorations of each
minutest corner of the building.(33) Small cities, even small
parishes,(34) vied with the big agglomerations in this work, and
the cathedrals of Laon and St. Ouen hardly stand behind that of
Rheims, or the Communal House of Bremen, or the folkmote's
bell-tower of Breslau. "No works must be begun by the commune but
such as are conceived in response to the grand heart of the
commune, composed of the hearts of all citizens, united in one
common will"--such were the words of the Council of Florence;
and this spirit appears in all communal works of common utility,
such as the canals, terraces, vineyards, and fruit gardens around
Florence, or the irrigation canals which intersected the plains
of Lombardy, or the port and aqueduct of Genoa, or, in fact, any
works of the kind which were achieved by almost every city.(35)

All arts had progressed in the same way in the medieval
cities, those of our own days mostly being but a continuation of
what had grown at that time. The prosperity of the Flemish cities
was based upon the fine woollen cloth they fabricated. Florence,
at the beginning of the fourteenth century, before the black
death, fabricated from 70,000 to 100,000 panni of woollen stuffs,
which were valued at 1,200,000 golden florins.(36) The
chiselling of precious metals, the art of casting, the fine
forging of iron, were creations of the mediaeval "mysteries" which
had succeeded in attaining in their own domains all that could be
made by the hand, without the use of a powerful prime motor. By
the hand and by invention, because, to use Whewell's words:

"Parchment and paper, printing and engraving, improved glass
and steel, gunpowder, clocks, telescopes, the mariner's compass,
the reformed calendar, the decimal notation; algebra,
trigonometry, chemistry, counterpoint (an invention equivalent to
a new creation of music); these are all possessions which we
inherit from that which has so disparagingly been termed the
Stationary Period" (History of Inductive Sciences, i. 252).

True that no new principle was illustrated by any of these
discoveries, as Whewell said; but medieval science had done
something more than the actual discovery of new principles. It
had prepared the discovery of all the new principles which we
know at the present time in mechanical sciences: it had
accustomed the explorer to observe facts and to reason from them.
It was inductive science, even though it had not yet fully
grasped the importance and the powers of induction; and it laid
the foundations of both mechanics and natural philosophy. Francis
Bacon, Galileo, and Copernicus were the direct descendants of a
Roger Bacon and a Michael Scot, as the steam engine was a direct
product of the researches carried on in the Italian universities
on the weight of the atmosphere, and of the mathematical and
technical learning which characterized Nuremberg.

But why should one take trouble to insist upon the advance of
science and art in the medieval city? Is it not enough to point
to the cathedrals in the domain of skill, and to the Italian
language and the poem of Dante in the domain of thought, to give
at once the measure of what the medieval city created during the
four centuries it lived?

The medieval cities have undoubtedly rendered an immense
service to European civilization. They have prevented it from
being drifted into the theocracies and despotical states of old;
they have endowed it with the variety, the self-reliance, the
force of initiative, and the immense intellectual and material
energies it now possesses, which are the best pledge for its
being able to resist any new invasion of the East. But why did
these centres of civilization, which attempted to answer to
deeply-seated needs of human nature, and were so full of life,
not live further on? Why were they seized with senile debility in
the sixteenth century? and, after having repulsed so many
assaults from without, and only borrowed new vigour from their
interior struggles, why did they finally succumb to both?

Various causes contributed to this effect, some of them
having their roots in the remote past, while others originated in
the mistakes committed by the cities themselves. Towards the end
of the fifteenth century, mighty States, reconstructed on the old
Roman pattern, were already coming into existence. In each
country and each region some feudal lord, more cunning, more
given to hoarding, and often less scrupulous than his neighbours,
had succeeded in appropriating to himself richer personal
domains, more peasants on his lands, more knights in his
following, more treasures in his chest. He had chosen for his
seat a group of happily-situated villages, not yet trained into
free municipal life--Paris, Madrid, or Moscow--and with the
labour of his serfs he had made of them royal fortified cities,
whereto he attracted war companions by a free distribution of
villages, and merchants by the protection he offered to trade.
The germ of a future State, which began gradually to absorb other
similar centres, was thus laid. Lawyers, versed in the study of
Roman law, flocked into such centres; a tenacious and ambitious
race of men issued from among the burgesses, who equally hated
the naughtiness of the lords and what they called the lawlessness
of the peasants. The very forms of the village community, unknown
to their code, the very principles of federalism were repulsive
to them as "barbarian" inheritances. Caesarism, supported by the
fiction of popular consent and by the force of arms, was their
ideal, and they worked hard for those who promised to realize

The Christian Church, once a rebel against Roman law and now
its ally, worked in the same direction. The attempt at
constituting the theocratic Empire of Europe having proved a
failure, the more intelligent and ambitious bishops now yielded
support to those whom they reckoned upon for reconstituting the
power of the Kings of Israel or of the Emperors of
Constantinople. The Church bestowed upon the rising rulers her
sanctity, she crowned them as God's representatives on earth, she
brought to their service the learning and the statesmanship of
her ministers, her blessings and maledictions, her riches, and
the sympathies she had retained among the poor. The peasants,
whom the cities had failed or refused to free, on seeing the
burghers impotent to put an end to the interminable wars between
the knights--which wars they had so dearly to pay for--now
set their hopes upon the King, the Emperor, or the Great Prince;
and while aiding them to crush down the mighty feudal owners,
they aided them to constitute the centralized State. And finally,
the invasions of the Mongols and the Turks, the holy war against
the Maures in Spain, as well as the terrible wars which soon
broke out between the growing centres of sovereignty--Ile de
France and Burgundy, Scotland and England, England and France,
Lithuania and Poland, Moscow and Tver, and so on--contributed
to the same end. Mighty States made their appearance; and the
cities had now to resist not only loose federations of lords, but
strongly-organized centres, which had armies of serfs at their

The worst was, that the growing autocracies found support in
the divisions which had grown within the cities themselves. The
fundamental idea of the medieval city was grand, but it was not
wide enough. Mutual aid and support cannot be limited to a small
association; they must spread to its surroundings, or else the
surroundings will absorb the association. And in this respect the
medieval citizen had committed a formidable mistake at the
outset. Instead of looking upon the peasants and artisans who
gathered under the protection of his walls as upon so many aids
who would contribute their part to the making of the city--as
they really did--a sharp division was traced between the
"families" of old burghers and the newcomers. For the former, all
benefits from communal trade and communal lands were reserved,
and nothing was left for the latter but the right of freely using
the skill of their own hands. The city thus became divided into
"the burghers" or "the commonalty," and "the inhabitants."(38)
The trade, which was formerly communal, now became the privilege
of the merchant and artisan "families," and the next step--that
of becoming individual, or the privilege of oppressive trusts--
was unavoidable.

The same division took place between the city proper and the
surrounding villages. The commune had well tried to free the
peasants, but her wars against the lords became, as already
mentioned, wars for freeing the city itself from the lords,
rather than for freeing the peasants. She left to the lord his
rights over the villeins, on condition that he would molest the
city no more and would become co-burgher. But the nobles
"adopted" by the city, and now residing within its walls, simply
carried on the old war within the very precincts of the city.
They disliked to submit to a tribunal of simple artisans and
merchants, and fought their old feuds in the streets. Each city
had now its Colonnas and Orsinis, its Overstolzes and Wises.
Drawing large incomes from the estates they had still retained,
they surrounded themselves with numerous clients and feudalized
the customs and habits of the city itself. And when discontent
began to be felt in the artisan classes of the town, they offered
their sword and their followers to settle the differences by a
free fight, instead of letting the discontent find out the
channels which it did not fail to secure itself in olden times.

The greatest and the most fatal error of most cities was to
base their wealth upon commerce and industry, to the neglect of
agriculture. They thus repeated the error which had once been
committed by the cities of antique Greece, and they fell through
it into the same crimes.(39) The estrangement of so many cities
from the land necessarily drew them into a policy hostile to the
land, which became more and more evident in the times of Edward
the Third,(40) the French Jacqueries, the Hussite wars, and the
Peasant War in Germany. On the other hand, a commercial policy
involved them in distant enterprises. Colonies were founded by
the Italians in the south-east, by German cities in the east, by
Slavonian cities in the far northeast. Mercenary armies began to
be kept for colonial wars, and soon for local defence as well.
Loans were contacted to such an extent as to totally demoralize
the citizens; and internal contests grew worse and worse at each
election, during which the colonial politics in the interest of a
few families was at stake. The division into rich and poor grew
deeper, and in the sixteenth century, in each city, the royal
authority found ready allies and support among the poor.

And there is yet another cause of the decay of communal
institutions, which stands higher and lies deeper than all the
above. The history of the medieval cities offers one of the most
striking illustrations of the power of ideas and principles upon
the destinies of mankind, and of the quite opposed results which
are obtained when a deep modification of leading ideas has taken
place. Self-reliance and federalism, the sovereignty of each
group, and the construction of the political body from the simple
to the composite, were the leading ideas in the eleventh century.
But since that time the conceptions had entirely changed. The
students of Roman law and the prelates of the Church, closely
bound together since the time of Innocent the Third, had
succeeded in paralyzing the idea--the antique Greek idea--
which presided at the foundation of the cities. For two or three
hundred years they taught from the pulpit, the University chair,
and the judges' bench, that salvation must be sought for in a
strongly-centralized State, placed under a semi-divine
authority;(41) that one man can and must be the saviour of
society, and that in the name of public salvation he can commit
any violence: burn men and women at the stake, make them perish
under indescribable tortures, plunge whole provinces into the
most abject misery. Nor did they fail to give object lessons to
this effect on a grand scale, and with an unheard-of cruelty,
wherever the king's sword and the Church's fire, or both at once,
could reach. By these teachings and examples, continually
repeated and enforced upon public attention, the very minds of
the citizens had been shaped into a new mould. They began to find
no authority too extensive, no killing by degrees too cruel, once
it was "for public safety." And, with this new direction of mind
and this new belief in one man's power, the old federalist
principle faded away, and the very creative genius of the masses
died out. The Roman idea was victorious, and in such
circumstances the centralized State had in the cities a ready

Florence in the fifteenth century is typical of this change.
Formerly a popular revolution was the signal of a new departure.
Now, when the people, brought to despair, insurged, it had
constructive ideas no more; no fresh idea came out of the
movement. A thousand representatives were put into the Communal
Council instead of 400; 100 men entered the signoria instead of
80. But a revolution of figures could be of no avail. The
people's discontent was growing up, and new revolts followed. A
saviour--the "tyran"--was appealed to; he massacred the
rebels, but the disintegration of the communal body continued
worse than ever. And when, after a new revolt, the people of
Florence appealed to their most popular man, Gieronimo
Savonarola, for advice, the monk's answer was:--"Oh, people
mine, thou knowest that I cannot go into State affairs... purify
thy soul, and if in such a disposition of mind thou reformest thy
city, then, people of Florence, thou shalt have inaugurated the
reform in all Italy!" Carnival masks and vicious books were
burned, a law of charity and another against usurers were passed--
and the democracy of Florence remained where it was. The old
spirit had gone. By too much trusting to government, they had
ceased to trust to themselves; they were unable to open new
issues. The State had only to step in and to crush down their
last liberties.

And yet, the current of mutual aid and support did not die
out in the masses, it continued to flow even after that defeat.
It rose up again with a formidable force, in answer to the
communist appeals of the first propagandists of the reform, and
it continued to exist even after the masses, having failed to
realize the life which they hoped to inaugurate under the
inspiration of a reformed religion, fell under the dominions of
an autocratic power. It flows still even now, and it seeks its
way to find out a new expression which would not be the State,
nor the medieval city, nor the village community of the
barbarians, nor the savage clan, but would proceed from all of
them, and yet be superior to them in its wider and more deeply
humane conceptions.


1. The literature of the subject is immense; but there is no work
yet which treats of the medieval city as of a whole. For the
French Communes, Augustin Thierry's Lettres and Considerations
sur l'histoire de France still remain classical, and Luchaire's
Communes francaises is an excellent addition on the same lines.
For the cities of Italy, the great work of Sismondi (Histoire des
republiques italiennes du moyen age, Paris, 1826, 16 vols.), Leo
and Botta's History of Italy, Ferrari's Revolutions d'Italie, and
Hegel's Geschichte der Stadteverfassung in Italien, are the chief
sources of general information. For Germany we have Maurer's
Stadteverfassung, Barthold's Geschichte der deutschen Stadte,
and, of recent works, Hegel's Stadte und Gilden der germanischen
Volker (2 vols. Leipzig, 1891), and Dr. Otto Kallsen's Die
deutschen Stadte im Mittelalter (2 vols. Halle, 1891), as also
Janssen's Geschichte des deutschen Volkes (5 vols. 1886), which,
let us hope, will soon be translated into English (French
translation in 1892). For Belgium, A. Wauters, Les Libertes
communales (Bruxelles, 1869-78, 3 vols.). For Russia, Byelaeff's,
Kostomaroff's and Sergievich's works. And finally, for England,
we posses one of the best works on cities of a wider region in
Mrs. J.R. Green's Town Life in the Fifteenth Century (2 vols.
London, 1894). We have, moreover, a wealth of well-known local
histories, and several excellent works of general or economical
history which I have so often mentioned in this and the preceding
chapter. The richness of literature consists, however, chiefly in
separate, sometimes admirable, researches into the history of
separate cities, especially Italian and German; the guilds; the
land question; the economical principles of the time. the
economical importance of guilds and crafts; the leagues between,
cities (the Hansa); and communal art. An incredible wealth of
information is contained in works of this second category, of
which only some of the more important are named in these pages.

2. Kulischer, in an excellent essay on primitive trade
(Zeitschrift fur Volkerpsychologie, Bd. x. 380), also points out
that, according to Herodotus, the Argippaeans were considered
inviolable, because the trade between the Scythians and the
northern tribes took place on their territory. A fugitive was
sacred on their territory, and they were often asked to act as
arbiters for their neighbours. See Appendix XI.

3. Some discussion has lately taken place upon the Weichbild and
the Weichbild-law, which still remain obscure (see Zopfl,
Alterthumer des deutschen Reichs und Rechts, iii. 29; Kallsen, i.
316). The above explanation seems to be the more probable, but,
of course, it must be tested by further research. It is also
evident that, to use a Scotch expression, the "mercet cross"
could be considered as an emblem of Church jurisdiction, but we
find it both in bishop cities and in those in which the folkmote
was sovereign.

4. For all concerning the merchant guild see Mr. Gross's
exhaustive work, The Guild Merchant (Oxford, 1890, 2 vols.); also
Mrs. Green's remarks in Town Life in the Fifteenth Century, vol.
ii. chaps. v. viii. x; and A. Doren's review of the subject in
Schmoller's Forschungen, vol. xii. If the considerations
indicated in the previous chapter (according to which trade was
communal at its beginnings) prove to be correct, it will be
permissible to suggest as a probable hypothesis that the guild
merchant was a body entrusted with commerce in the interest of
the whole city, and only gradually became a guild of merchants
trading for themselves; while the merchant adventurers of this
country, the Novgorod povolniki (free colonizers and merchants)
and the mercati personati, would be those to whom it was left to
open new markets and new branches of commerce for themselves.
Altogether, it must be remarked that the origin of the mediaeval
city can be ascribed to no separate agency. It was a result of
many agencies in different degrees.

5. Janssen's Geschichte des deutschen Volkes, i. 315; Gramich's
Wurzburg; and, in fact, any collection of ordinances.

6. Falke, Geschichtliche Statistik, i. 373-393, and ii. 66;
quoted in Janssen's Geschichte, i. 339; J.D. Blavignac, in
Comptes et depenses de la construction du clocher de
Saint-Nicolas a Fribourg en Suisse, comes to a similar conclusion.
For Amiens, De Calonne's Vie Municipale, p. 99 and Appendix. For
a thorough appreciation and graphical representation of the
medieval wages in England and their value in bread and meat,
see G. Steffen's excellent article and curves in The Nineteenth
Century for 1891, and Studier ofver lonsystemets historia i England,
Stockholm, 1895.

7. To quote but one example out of many which may be found in
Schonberg's and Falke's works, the sixteen shoemaker workers
(Schusterknechte) of the town Xanten, on the Rhine, gave, for
erecting a screen and an altar in the church, 75 guldens of
subscriptions, and 12 guldens out of their box, which money was
worth, according to the best valuations, ten times its present

8. Quoted by Janssen, l.c. i. 343.

9. The Economical Interpretation of History, London, 1891, p.

10. Janssen, l.c. See also Dr. Alwin Schultz, Deutsches Leben im
XIV und XV Jahrhundert, grosse Ausgabe, Wien, 1892, pp. 67 seq.
At Paris, the day of labour varied from seven to eight hours in
the winter to fourteen hours in summer in certain trades, while
in others it was from eight to nine hours in winter, to from ten
to twelve in Summer. All work was stopped on Saturdays and on
about twenty-five other days (jours de commun de vile foire) at
four o'clock, while on Sundays and thirty other holidays there
was no work at all. The general conclusion is, that the medieval
worker worked less hours, all taken, than the present-day worker
(Dr. E. Martin Saint-Leon, Histoire des corporations, p. 121).

11. W. Stieda, "Hansische Vereinbarungen uber stadtisches Gewerbe
im XIV und XV Jahrhundert," in Hansische Geschichtsblatter,
Jahrgang 1886, p. 121. Schonberg's Wirthschaftliche Bedeutung der
Zunfte; also, partly, Roscher.

12. See Toulmin Smith's deeply-felt remarks about the royal
spoliation of the guilds, in Miss Smith's Introduction to English
Guilds. In France the same royal spoliation and abolition of the
guilds' jurisdiction was begun from 1306, and the final blow was
struck in 1382 (Fagniez, l.c. pp. 52-54).

13. Adam Smith and his contemporaries knew well what they were
condemning when they wrote against the State interference in
trade and the trade monopolies of State creation. Unhappily,
their followers, with their hopeless superficiality, flung
medieval guilds and State interference into the same sack, making
no distinction between a Versailles edict and a guild ordinance.
It hardly need be said that the economists who have seriously
studied the subject, like Schonberg (the editor of the well-known
course of Political Economy), never fell into such an error. But,
till lately, diffuse discussions of the above type went on for
economical "science."

14. In Florence the seven minor arts made their revolution in
1270-82, and its results are fully described by Perrens (Histoire
de Florence, Paris, 1877, 3 vols.), and especially by Gino
Capponi (Storia della repubblica di Firenze, 2da edizione, 1876,
i. 58-80; translated into German). In Lyons, on the contrary,
where the movement of the minor crafts took place in 1402, the
latter were defeated and lost the right of themselves nominating
their own judges. The two parties came apparently to a
compromise. In Rostock the same movement took place in 1313; in
Zurich in 1336; in Bern in 1363; in Braunschweig in 1374, and
next year in Hamburg; in Lubeck in 1376-84; and so on. See
Schmoller's Strassburg zur Zeit der Zunftkampfe and Strassburg's
Bluthe; Brentano's Arbeitergilden der Gegenwart, 2 vols.,
Leipzig, 1871-72; Eb. Bain's Merchant and Craft Guilds, Aberdeen,
1887, pp. 26-47, 75, etc. As to Mr. Gross's opinion relative to
the same struggles in England, see Mrs. Green's remarks in her
Town Life in the Fifteenth Century, ii. 190-217; also the chapter
on the Labour Question, and, in fact, the whole of this extremely
interesting volume. Brentano's views on the crafts' struggles,
expressed especially in iii. and iv. of his essay "On the History
and Development of Guilds," in Toulmin Smith's English Guilds
remain classical for the subject, and may be said to have been
again and again confirmed by subsequent research.

15. To give but one example--Cambrai made its first revolution
in 907, and, after three or four more revolts, it obtained its
charter in 1O76. This charter was repealed twice (11O7 and 1138),
and twice obtained again (in 1127 and 1180). Total, 223 years of
struggles before conquering the right to independence. Lyons--
from 1195 to 1320.

16. See Tuetey, "Etude sur Le droit municipal... en
Franche-Comte," in Memoires de la Societe d'emulation de
Montbeliard, 2e serie, ii. 129 seq.

17. This seems to have been often the case in Italy. In
Switzerland, Bern bought even the towns of Thun and Burgdorf.

18. Such was, at least, the case in the cities of Tuscany
(Florence, Lucca, Sienna, Bologna, etc.), for which the relations
between city and peasants are best known. (Luchitzkiy, "Slavery
and Russian Slaves in Florence," in Kieff University Izvestia for
1885, who has perused Rumohr's Ursprung der Besitzlosigkeit der
Colonien in Toscana, 1830.) The whole matter concerning the
relations between the cities and the peasants requires much more
study than has hitherto been done.

19. Ferrari's generalizations are often too theoretical to be
always correct; but his views upon the part played by the nobles
in the city wars are based upon a wide range of authenticated

20. Only such cities as stubbornly kept to the cause of the
barons, like Pisa or Verona, lost through the wars. For many
towns which fought on the barons' side, the defeat was also the
beginning of liberation and progress.

21. Ferrari, ii. 18, 104 seq.; Leo and Botta, i. 432.

22. Joh. Falke, Die Hansa als Deutsche Seeund Handelsmacht,
Berlin, 1863, pp. 31, 55.

23. For Aachen and Cologne we have direct testimony that the
bishops of these two cities--one of them bought by the enemy
opened to him the gates.

24. See the facts, though not always the conclusions, of Nitzsch,
iii. 133 seq.; also Kallsen, i. 458, etc.

25. On the Commune of the Laonnais, which, until Melleville's
researches (Histoire de la Commune du Laonnais, Paris, 1853), was
confounded with the Commune of Laon, see Luchaire, pp. 75 seq.
For the early peasants' guilds and subsequent unions see R.
Wilman's "Die landlichen Schutzgilden Westphaliens," in
Zeitschrift fur Kulturgeschichte, neue Folge, Bd. iii., quoted in
Henne-am-Rhyn's Kulturgeschichte, iii. 249.

26. Luchaire, p. 149.

27. Two important cities, like Mainz and Worms, would settle a
political contest by means of arbitration. After a civil war
broken out in Abbeville, Amiens would act, in 1231, as arbiter
(Luchaire, 149); and so on.

28. See, for instance, W. Stieda, Hansische Vereinbarungen, l.c.,

29. Cosmo Innes's Early Scottish History and Scotland in Middle
Ages, quoted by Rev. Denton, l.c., pp. 68, 69; Lamprecht's
Deutsches wirthschaftliche Leben im Mittelalter, review by
Schmoller in his Jahrbuch, Bd. xii.; Sismondi's Tableau de
l'agriculture toscane, pp. 226 seq. The dominions of Florence
could be recognized at a glance through their prosperity.

30. Mr. John J. Ennett (Six Essays, London, 1891) has excellent
pages on this aspect of medieval architecture. Mr. Willis, in his
appendix to Whewell's History of Inductive Sciences (i. 261-262),
has pointed out the beauty of the mechanical relations in
medieval buildings. "A new decorative construction was matured,"
he writes, "not thwarting and controlling, but assisting and
harmonizing with the mechanical construction. Every member, every
moulding, becomes a sustainer of weight; and by the multiplicity
of props assisting each other, and the consequent subdivision of
weight, the eye was satisfied of the stability of the structure,
notwithstanding curiously slender aspects of the separate parts."
An art which sprang out of the social life of the city could not
be better characterized.

31. Dr. L. Ennen, Der Dom zu Koln, seine Construction und
Anstaltung, Koln, 1871.

32. The three statues are among the outer decorations of Notre
Dame de Paris.

33. Mediaeval art, like Greek art, did not know those curiosity
shops which we call a National Gallery or a Museum. A picture was
painted, a statue was carved, a bronze decoration was cast to
stand in its proper place in a monument of communal art. It lived
there, it was part of a whole, and it contributed to give unity
to the impression produced by the whole.

34. Cf. J. T. Ennett's "Second Essay," p. 36.

35. Sismondi, iv. 172; xvi. 356. The great canal, Naviglio
Grande, which brings the water from the Tessino, was begun in
1179, i.e. after the conquest of independence, and it was ended
in the thirteenth century. On the subsequent decay, see xvi. 355.

36. In 1336 it had 8,000 to 10,000 boys and girls in its primary
schools, 1,000 to 1,200 boys in its seven middle schools, and
from 550 to 600 students in its four universities. The thirty
communal hospitals contained over 1,000 beds for a population of
90,000 inhabitants (Capponi, ii. 249 seq.). It has more than once
been suggested by authoritative writers that education stood, as
a rule, at a much higher level than is generally supposed.
Certainly so in democratic Nuremberg.

37. Cf. L. Ranke's excellent considerations upon the essence of
Roman Law in his Weltgeschichte, Bd. iv. Abth. 2, pp. 20-31. Also
Sismondi's remarks upon the part played by the legistes in the
constitution of royal authority, Histoire des Francais, Paris,
1826, viii. 85-99. The popular hatred against these "weise
Doktoren und Beutelschneider des Volks" broke out with full force
in the first years of the sixteenth century in the sermons of the
early Reform movement.

38. Brentano fully understood the fatal effects of the struggle
between the "old burghers" and the new-comers. Miaskowski, in his
work on the village communities of Switzerland, has indicated the
same for village communities.

39. The trade in slaves kidnapped in the East was never
discontinued in the Italian republics till the fifteenth century.
Feeble traces of it are found also in Germany and elsewhere. See
Cibrario. Della schiavitu e del servaggio, 2 vols. Milan, 1868;
Professor Luchitzkiy, "Slavery and Russian Slaves in Florence in
the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries," in Izvestia of the Kieff
University, 1885.

40. J.R. Green's History of the English People, London, 1878, i.

41. See the theories expressed by the Bologna lawyers, already at
the Congress of Roncaglia in 1158.



Popular revolts at the beginning of the State-period. Mutual
Aid institutions of the present time. The village community;
its struggles for resisting its abolition by the State. Habits
derived from the village-community life, retained in our modern
villages. Switzerland, France, Germany, Russia.

The mutual-aid tendency in man has so remote an origin, and
is so deeply interwoven with all the past evolution of the human
race, that it has been maintained by mankind up to the present
time, notwithstanding all vicissitudes of history. It was chiefly
evolved during periods of peace and prosperity; but when even the
greatest calamities befell men--when whole countries were laid
waste by wars, and whole populations were decimated by misery, or
groaned under the yoke of tyranny--the same tendency continued
to live in the villages and among the poorer classes in the
towns; it still kept them together, and in the long run it
reacted even upon those ruling, fighting, and devastating
minorities which dismissed it as sentimental nonsense. And
whenever mankind had to work out a new social organization,
adapted to a new phasis of development, its constructive genius
always drew the elements and the inspiration for the new
departure from that same ever-living tendency. New economical and
social institutions, in so far as they were a creation of the
masses, new ethical systems, and new religions, all have
originated from the same source, and the ethical progress of our
race, viewed in its broad lines, appears as a gradual extension
of the mutual-aid principles from the tribe to always larger and
larger agglomerations, so as to finally embrace one day the whole
of mankind, without respect to its divers creeds, languages, and

After having passed through the savage tribe, and next
through the village community, the Europeans came to work out in
medieval times a new form of organization, which had the
advantage of allowing great latitude for individual initiative,
while it largely responded at the same time to man's need of
mutual support. A federation of village communities, covered by a
network of guilds and fraternities, was called into existence in
the medieval cities. The immense results achieved under this new
form of union--in well-being for all, in industries, art,
science, and commerce--were discussed at some length in two
preceding chapters, and an attempt was also made to show why,
towards the end of the fifteenth century, the medieval republics--
surrounded by domains of hostile feudal lords, unable to free
the peasants from servitude, and gradually corrupted by ideas of
Roman Caesarism--were doomed to become a prey to the growing
military States.

However, before submitting for three centuries to come, to
the all-absorbing authority of the State, the masses of the
people made a formidable attempt at reconstructing society on the
old basis of mutual aid and support. It is well known by this
time that the great movement of the reform was not a mere revolt
against the abuses of the Catholic Church. It had its
constructive ideal as well, and that ideal was life in free,
brotherly communities. Those of the early writings and sermons of
the period which found most response with the masses were imbued
with ideas of the economical and social brotherhood of mankind.
The "Twelve Articles" and similar professions of faith, which
were circulated among the German and Swiss peasants and artisans,
maintained not only every one's right to interpret the Bible
according to his own understanding, but also included the demand
of communal lands being restored to the village communities and
feudal servitudes being abolished, and they always alluded to the
"true" faith--a faith of brotherhood. At the same time scores
of thousands of men and women joined the communist fraternities
of Moravia, giving them all their fortune and living in numerous
and prosperous settlements constructed upon the principles of
communism.(1) Only wholesale massacres by the thousand could put
a stop to this widely-spread popular movement, and it was by the
sword, the fire, and the rack that the young States secured their
first and decisive victory over the masses of the people.(2)

For the next three centuries the States, both on the
Continent and in these islands, systematically weeded out all
institutions in which the mutual-aid tendency had formerly found
its expression. The village communities were bereft of their
folkmotes, their courts and independent administration; their
lands were confiscated. The guilds were spoliated of their
possessions and liberties, and placed under the control, the
fancy, and the bribery of the State's official. The cities were
divested of their sovereignty, and the very springs of their
inner life--the folkmote, the elected justices and
administration, the sovereign parish and the sovereign guild--
were annihilated; the State's functionary took possession of
every link of what formerly was an organic whole. Under that
fatal policy and the wars it engendered, whole regions, once
populous and wealthy, were laid bare; rich cities became
insignificant boroughs; the very roads which connected them with
other cities became impracticable. Industry, art, and knowledge
fell into decay. Political education, science, and law were
rendered subservient to the idea of State centralization. It was
taught in the Universities and from the pulpit that the
institutions in which men formerly used to embody their needs of
mutual support could not be tolerated in a properly organized
State; that the State alone could represent the bonds of union
between its subjects; that federalism and "particularism" were
the enemies of progress, and the State was the only proper
initiator of further development. By the end of the last century
the kings on the Continent, the Parliament in these isles, and
the revolutionary Convention in France, although they were at war
with each other, agreed in asserting that no separate unions
between citizens must exist within the State; that hard labour
and death were the only suitable punishments to workers who dared
to enter into "coalitions." "No state within the State!" The
State alone, and the State's Church, must take care of matters of
general interest, while the subjects must represent loose
aggregations of individuals, connected by no particular bonds,
bound to appeal to the Government each time that they feel a
common need. Up to the middle of this century this was the theory
and practice in Europe. Even commercial and industrial societies
were looked at with suspicion. As to the workers, their unions
were treated as unlawful almost within our own lifetime in this
country and within the last twenty years on the Continent. The
whole system of our State education was such that up to the
present time, even in this country, a notable portion of society
would treat as a revolutionary measure the concession of such
rights as every one, freeman or serf, exercised five hundred
years ago in the village folkmote, the guild, the parish, and the

The absorption of all social functions by the State
necessarily favoured the development of an unbridled, narrow-minded
individualism. In proportion as the obligations towards the State
grew in numbers the citizens were evidently relieved from their
obligations towards each other. In the guild--and in medieval
times every man belonged to some guild or fraternity two "brothers"
were bound to watch in turns a brother who had fallen ill; it
would be sufficient now to give one's neighbour the address of
the next paupers' hospital. In barbarian society, to assist at a
fight between two men, arisen from a quarrel, and not to prevent
it from taking a fatal issue, meant to be oneself treated as a
murderer; but under the theory of the all-protecting State the
bystander need not intrude: it is the policeman's business to
interfere, or not. And while in a savage land, among the Hottentots,
it would be scandalous to eat without having loudly called out
thrice whether there is not somebody wanting to share the food,
all that a respectable citizen has to do now is to pay the poor
tax and to let the starving starve. The result is, that the
theory which maintains that men can, and must, seek their own
happiness in a disregard of other people's wants is now triumphant
all round in law, in science, in religion. It is the religion
of the day, and to doubt of its efficacy is to be a dangerous
Utopian. Science loudly proclaims that the struggle of each
against all is the leading principle of nature, and of human
societies as well. To that struggle Biology ascribes the
progressive evolution of the animal world. History takes the same
line of argument; and political economists, in their naive ignorance,
trace all progress of modern industry and machinery to the "wonderful"
effects of the same principle. The very religion of the pulpit is
a religion of individualism, slightly mitigated by more or less
charitable relations to one's neighbours, chiefly on Sundays.
"Practical" men and theorists, men of science and religious
preachers, lawyers and politicians, all agree upon one thing--
that individualism may be more or less softened in its harshest
effects by charity, but that it is the only secure basis for the
maintenance of society and its ulterior progress.

It seems, therefore, hopeless to look for mutual-aid
institutions and practices in modern society. What could remain
of them? And yet, as soon as we try to ascertain how the millions
of human beings live, and begin to study their everyday
relations, we are struck with the immense part which the
mutual-aid and mutual-support principles play even now-a-days in
human life. Although the destruction of mutual-aid institutions
has been going on in practice and theory, for full three or four
hundred years, hundreds of millions of men continue to live under
such institutions; they piously maintain them and endeavour to
reconstitute them where they have ceased to exist. In our mutual
relations every one of us has his moments of revolt against the
fashionable individualistic creed of the day, and actions in
which men are guided by their mutual aid inclinations constitute
so great a part of our daily intercourse that if a stop to such
actions could be put all further ethical progress would be
stopped at once. Human society itself could not be maintained for
even so much as the lifetime of one single generation. These
facts, mostly neglected by sociologists and yet of the first
importance for the life and further elevation of mankind, we are
now going to analyze, beginning with the standing institutions of
mutual support, and passing next to those acts of mutual aid
which have their origin in personal or social sympathies.

When we cast a broad glance on the present constitution of
European society we are struck at once with the fact that,
although so much has been done to get rid of the village
community, this form of union continues to exist to the extent we
shall presently see, and that many attempts are now made either
to reconstitute it in some shape or another or to find some
substitute for it. The current theory as regards the village
community is, that in Western Europe it has died out by a natural
death, because the communal possession of the soil was found
inconsistent with the modern requirements of agriculture. But the
truth is that nowhere did the village community disappear of its
own accord; everywhere, on the contrary, it took the ruling
classes several centuries of persistent but not always successful
efforts to abolish it and to confiscate the communal lands.

In France, the village communities began to be deprived of
their independence, and their lands began to be plundered, as
early as the sixteenth century. However, it was only in the next
century, when the mass of the peasants was brought, by exactions
and wars, to the state of subjection and misery which is vividly
depicted by all historians, that the plundering of their lands
became easy and attained scandalous proportions. "Every one has
taken of them according to his powers... imaginary debts have
been claimed, in order to seize upon their lands; "so we read in
an edict promulgated by Louis the Fourteenth in 1667.(3) Of
course the State's remedy for such evils was to render the
communes still more subservient to the State, and to plunder them
itself. in fact, two years later all money revenue of the
communes was confiscated by the King. As to the appropriation of
communal lands, it grew worse and worse, and in the next century
the nobles and the clergy had already taken possession of immense
tracts of land--one-half of the cultivated area, according to
certain estimates--mostly to let it go out of culture.(4) But
the peasants still maintained their communal institutions, and
until the year 1787 the village folkmotes, composed of all
householders, used to come together in the shadow of the
bell-tower or a tree, to allot and re-allot what they had
retained of their fields, to assess the taxes, and to elect their
executive, just as the Russian mir does at the present time. This
is what Babeau's researches have proved to demonstration.(5)

The Government found, however, the folkmotes "too noisy," too
disobedient, and in 1787, elected councils, composed of a mayor
and three to six syndics, chosen from among the wealthier
peasants, were introduced instead. Two years later the
Revolutionary Assemblee Constituante, which was on this point at
one with the old regime, fully confirmed this law (on the 14th of
December, 1789), and the bourgeois du village had now their turn
for the plunder of communal lands, which continued all through
the Revolutionary period. Only on the 16th of August, 1792, the
Convention, under the pressure of the peasants' insurrections,
decided to return the enclosed lands to the communes;(6) but it
ordered at the same time that they should be divided in equal
parts among the wealthier peasants only--a measure which
provoked new insurrections and was abrogated next year, in 1793,
when the order came to divide the communal lands among. all
commoners, rich and poor alike, "active" and "inactive."

These two laws, however, ran so much against the conceptions
of the peasants that they were not obeyed, and wherever the
peasants had retaken possession of part of their lands they kept
them undivided. But then came the long years of wars, and the
communal lands were simply confiscated by the State (in 1794) as
a mortgage for State loans, put up for sale, and plundered as
such; then returned again to the communes and confiscated again
(in 1813); and only in 1816 what remained of them, i.e. about
15,000,000 acres of the least productive land, was restored to
the village communities.(7) Still this was not yet the end of
the troubles of the communes. Every new regime saw in the
communal lands a means for gratifying its supporters, and three
laws (the first in 1837 and the last under Napoleon the Third)
were passed to induce the village communities to divide their
estates. Three times these laws had to be repealed, in
consequence of the opposition they met with in the villages; but
something was snapped up each time, and Napoleon the Third, under
the pretext of encouraging perfected methods of agriculture,
granted large estates out of the communal lands to some of his

As to the autonomy of the village communities, what could be
retained of it after so many blows? The mayor and the syndics
were simply looked upon as unpaid functionaries of the State
machinery. Even now, under the Third Republic, very little can be
done in a village community without the huge State machinery, up
to the prefet and the ministries, being set in motion. It is
hardly credible, and yet it is true, that when, for instance, a
peasant intends to pay in money his share in the repair of a
communal road, instead of himself breaking the necessary amount
of stones, no fewer than twelve different functionaries of the
State must give their approval, and an aggregate of fifty-two
different acts must be performed by them, and exchanged between
them, before the peasant is permitted to pay that money to the
communal council. All the remainder bears the same character.(8)

What took place in France took place everywhere in Western
and Middle Europe. Even the chief dates of the great assaults
upon the peasant lands are the same. For England the only
difference is that the spoliation was accomplished by separate
acts rather than by general sweeping measures--with less haste
but more thoroughly than in France. The seizure of the communal
lands by the lords also began in the fifteenth century, after the
defeat of the peasant insurrection of 1380--as seen from
Rossus's Historia and from a statute of Henry the Seventh, in
which these seizures are spoken of under the heading of
"enormitees and myschefes as be hurtfull... to the common
wele."(9) Later on the Great Inquest, under Henry the Eighth,
was begun, as is known, in order to put a stop to the enclosure
of communal lands, but it ended in a sanction of what had been
done.(10) The communal lands continued to be preyed upon, and
the peasants were driven from the land. But it was especially
since the middle of the eighteenth century that, in England as
everywhere else, it became part of a systematic policy to simply
weed out all traces of communal ownership; and the wonder is not
that it has disappeared, but that it could be maintained, even in
England, so as to be "generally prevalent so late as the
grandfathers of this generation."(11) The very object of the
Enclosure Acts, as shown by Mr. Seebohm, was to remove this
system,(12) and it was so well removed by the nearly four
thousand Acts passed between 1760 and 1844 that only faint traces
of it remain now. The land of the village communities was taken
by the lords, and the appropriation was sanctioned by Parliament
in each separate case.

In Germany, in Austria, in Belgium the village community was
also destroyed by the State. Instances of commoners themselves
dividing their lands were rare,(13) while everywhere the States
coerced them to enforce the division, or simply favoured the
private appropriation of their lands. The last blow to communal
ownership in Middle Europe also dates from the middle of the
eighteenth century. In Austria sheer force was used by the
Government, in 1768, to compel the communes to divide their lands--
a special commission being nominated two years later for that
purpose. In Prussia Frederick the Second, in several of his
ordinances (in 1752, 1763, 1765, and 1769), recommended to the
Justizcollegien to enforce the division. In Silesia a special
resolution was issued to serve that aim in 1771. The same took
place in Belgium, and, as the communes did not obey, a law was
issued in 1847 empowering the Government to buy communal meadows
in order to sell them in retail, and to make a forced sale of the
communal land when there was a would-be buyer for it.(14)

In short, to speak of the natural death of the village
communities in virtue of economical laws is as grim a joke as to
speak of the natural death of soldiers slaughtered on a
battlefield. The fact was simply this: The village communities
had lived for over a thousand years; and where and when the
peasants were not ruined by wars and exactions they steadily
improved their methods of culture. But as the value of land was
increasing, in consequence of the growth of industries, and the
nobility had acquired, under the State organization, a power
which it never had had under the feudal system, it took
possession of the best parts of the communal lands, and did its
best to destroy the communal institutions.

However, the village-community institutions so well respond
to the needs and conceptions of the tillers of the soil that, in
spite of all, Europe is up to this date covered with living
survivals of the village communities, and European country life
is permeated with customs and habits dating from the community
period. Even in England, notwithstanding all the drastic measures
taken against the old order of things, it prevailed as late as
the beginning of the nineteenth century. Mr. Gomme--one of the
very few English scholars who have paid attention to the subject--
shows in his work that many traces of the communal possession

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