6 - Guild and entrepreneurial structures  pp. 105-126

Guild and entrepreneurial structures

By Maureen Fennell Mazzaoui

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The economic corporations that evolved in the formative stages of the Italian communes gave rise to new occupational groupings that profoundly modified the traditional concept of artisan labor. The extant guild legislation constitutes our single most important body of information on medieval industrial organization. To this source must be added the directives of governmental organs and of powerful quasi-public entrepreneurial agencies which regulated and coordinated all aspects of production and marketing in the mainland cities of Lombardy and the Veneto. Changes or realignments in the composition and functions of these interrelated structures were not merely formal, but reflected significant secular trends in the relationship between capital and labor and the growing economic role of the state versus private enterprise.

The study of corporate organization is complicated by the fact that the surviving statutes are not a compact body of legislation but a series of dispositions emanating from guild, mercantile and communal councils that cover a broad span of time and are conditioned by a number of local political and economic factors. Many of the statutory codes are late in date and represent the end result of periodic revisions. Fortunately the dictates of legislative conservatism and the exigencies of public-record keeping tended to favor revisions in the form of additions or aggiunte appended to the original document. Thus it is frequently possible to extrapolate the primitive nucleus of the text through an examination of internal evidence.