Dutch: Nering

According to our definition, ‘trades’ were not institutions for collective action, mainly because the incentive to set up a ‘trade’ came from above, and also their regulations were orchestrated top down. ‘Trades’ did however play a role in the occupational structure to which the guilds also belonged, and we do refer to them as they are frequently confused with regular guilds. Thus, the specification of the ‘trades’ is very important to our further understanding of the guilds, but ‘trades’ were in fact not guilds.

‘Trades’ were organizations established by the town government, which were charged with regulating and controlling a particular branch of the export industry. No formal membership existed — in contrast to guilds — but the ‘trade’ simply included all persons working in a specific sector of production (Davids, 2007, 71). This does have some similarities with the guild monopoly: everyone working in the sector needed to be a member. However, membership in the sense of having the right to join or withdraw was not applicable and the ‘trades’ could not be used as a political instrument by the participants — a difference with craft guilds — but instead were used by city governments and merchants as instruments to control production (Davids, 2007, 71; De Munck, 2010d).

Trades in the Netherlands / Belgium

‘Trades’ in the Low Countries existed in cities with a large textile industry. In these towns, a board of entrepreneurs and representatives from the urban government administrated the ‘trades’. These organizations could also inspect the quality of the manufactured products, e.g. in Delft (Lis and Soly 2006b, 116), or set regulations for apprenticeship – as they did in Leiden (Davids 2007, 71).