Introduction - The Seventeenth Century

In the seventeenth century, the gild organization began to decay. The number of wants that had to be supplied from a distance was increasing, and international trade had become the opening for the activities of the organized merchants. Moreover, industries began to be concentrated in localities which were peculiarly suitable for them, and instead of each town producing all it required, one specialized in hats while another concentrated on making gloves. Where this happened, the gild system was commonly superseded by a domestic industry, in which the merchant class put out the raw material to craftsmen working in their own homes. Thus the increase of capital and the division of labour went side by side, and both were bound up with and controlled by the extension of markets that had been going on since the days of Elizabeth. An increase of capital made the master-craftsman a merchant, and his journeyman a small master; while the specialization of towns increased the scale of the industry, and made the industrial as opposed to the commercial element in production of greater importance. The gild system was undermined by the same two influences that made for expansion in commerce and industry. In the Discourse of the Common Weal the author divides all artificers into three classes:

" Off the first, I reckon all mercers, grocers, vinteners, haberdashers, milleyners, and such as doe sell wares growing beyond the seas and doe fetch out our treasure of the same.... Of the second sort be these: shoemakers, tailors, carpenters, masons, tillers, bowchers, brewers, bakers, vitailers of all sorts which like as they get their living in the country so they spend; but they bring no treasure unto us. Therefore we must cherish well the third sorts, and these be: clothiers, tanners cappers, and worsted makers only that I know which by their misteries and faculties doe bring in any treasure."1

No doubt all this time there were people who combined in their own person the functions of a merchant employer, a retail shopkeeper, and a trader overseas, but, generally speaking, the industrial capitalist was separated from the trading capitalist. 2

This gradual evolution of economic classes and development of industrial organization is intimately connected with the accumulation of capital, which depended upon the produce of land and mines and, in the seventeenth century, more particularly upon the success and produce of foreign trade.

1 Lamond, Discourse of the Common Weal, p. 91.

2 Unwin, op. cit., p. 72. " The company of Glovers (Chester) contained two separate classes, the leather dressers or wet glovers, who traded across St. George's Channel at their own risk for the skins, and the dry glovers, who bought the skins by dozens and half-dozens and worked them up in their homes. Towards the expense of the New Haven the Glovers' Company in 1567 gave 1S, 7d. a week, or more than six times the amount of the cappers' contribution, and in the same year we find a gloved no doubt a wet gloved sitting along with the leading shopkeepers, the drapers, ironmongers, mercers, etc., on a committee appointed to regulate the retail trade of Chester." R. H. Morris, Chester, pp. 435, 461, 464.

| Capital and Steam Power | Beginning of the Eighteenth Century |