Show Less
Open access

The Beginnings of Capitalism in Central Europe

Edited By Cyril Levitt

This book focuses on the beginnings of capitalism in Central Europe with emphasis on the German-speaking areas from the 14th to the 17th century. It also reviews and assesses the writings on the topic by the most important thinkers of the twentieth century. At the center of the presentation are the developments in mining, metallurgy, smelting, book publishing, clock making, ship building and advances in trade, commerce and finance. This book will be of interest to students of medieval and early modern European history, the so-called transition debate of feudalism to capitalism, social scientists and historians who are interested in the various transitions in human history, and philosophers who follow developments in the changing issues regarding freedom and bondage over the course of human development. Anthropologists who are familiar with Krader’s writings on the development of the Asiatic mode of production will be interested to see how Krader treats this transition from feudalism to capitalism by way of comparison and contrast.

Show Summary Details
Open access

Chapter Three Labour Processes in Central Europe, 15th–17th Centuries

←78 | 79→


Labour Processes in Central Europe, 15th–17th Centuries

3.1 The Population and Its Numbers

The population of Central Europe from the 15th to the 17th century was for the most part based in the countryside, and its main occupation was tied up with agriculture. The total population of Central Europe in 1500 amounted to around 12 million, of which the country population was 9 million or about 75% of the whole. The town population counted 3 million or about 25% of the total. The country population includes the peasants, workers on the land as well as the administration, people of the cloth, servants, traders, the military. Customarily one reckoned that those who were not peasants constituted 5 to 10% of the total population of the countryside. The town population included embossers, iron workers, and miners; yet their labour was not plied everywhere in cities or small towns. The numbers offer a rough idea; the division of the totality in the city and in the country is likewise imprecise, for some iron works were then country based.

In 1300, the entire population of Western Europe, as we define it in Table 1, counted 43 million and in 1500 roughly the same number. No increase in population was attributed to this region between 1300 and 1500; the stagnation was explained by the effects of the plague, especially of the Black Death around 1347/52, and by war.1 In 1600, the total population of Central Europe rose to 15 Million and in parts of Western Europe to 54 Million. The further development ←79 | 80→of Central Europe from 1600 to 1700 is separated from the development in all of Europe and from Western Europe. In 1700, the population of Central Europe amounted to 15 million, thus remaining stagnant; in parts of Western Europe it amounted to 59 million and in Europe as a whole 115 million in total. The stagnating numbers of people of Central Europe during the 17th century is attributed to the 30 Years’ War and its effects.

The urban population of Central Europe rose during the 16th century from 3 to 4 million, thus keeping up with the increase of the total population step by step. The increase of the urban population of Central Europe which continued during the 17th century, occurred through the surplus of births in relation to the deaths among the population and through the influx of the people from the countryside who tried to avoid the desolation of the country during the war. This means that the number of people in the countryside during the 17th century decreased absolutely and relatively, from 12 million around 1600 to 10 million around 1700. It is estimated that the population of Central Europe around 1650 had sunk to 10 million as a consequence of the war. The losses were mainly confined to the second quarter of the 17th century in Central Europe, which was followed by a population increase. Immigrants from foreign countries are included in this. [The population rebounded although the population increase 1650–1700 did not result in a rural population that was as large as it had been at the beginning of the century before the war—trans.].

Population figures are not the cause of an event, they are more likely the characteristics and expressions of the biological, economic, military, political and peaceful processes of humanity. If we consolidate just these facts presented, the following picture arises:

Table 1: The Population of Europe, 1300–1700 (in Millions)*

(a) British Isles, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland.

(b) The above plus the Netherlands.

(c) As percentage of the total population of Europe.

(d) As percentage of the total population of Germany.

*K.T.v. Inama-Sternegg, Bevölkerung, in:  Handwörterbuch der Staatswissenschaften, ed.: Conrad et al. 3rd edition 1909. All figures and percentages are gross estimates and are only offered for general orientation.

←80 | 81→

H. Bechtel (Wirtschaftsgeschichte Deutschlands, Vol. 1, Munich 1952) disputes the assumptions of Gustav Freytag and Inama-Sternegg that the population of the Holy Roman Empire had been diminished by two-thirds through the effects of the Thirty Years’ War. Yet, effects of the war were bad enough that there was no need for exaggeration. The whole of Europe had an increase in population of 10% in the course of the 17th century, Germany on the contrary, had none. [Indeed, it was smaller in 1700–trans.] (R. Mols, in: Europäische Wirtschaftsgeschichte, Ed.: C. Cipolla, K. Borchhardt, Vol. 2, Stuttgart 1979. H. Kellenbenz, R. Walter, in Handbuch der europäischen Sozial—und Wirtschaftsgeschichte, Ed.: H. Fischer et al. 1986).

The following table provides population figures for major European cities in select years from 1300 to 1700:

Table 2: Population of Cities in England, France, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands, 1300–1700 City Year (Population in Thousands).

These data point to the general directions in the history of the urban population. The numbers are rounded and presented only provisionally. They show smaller or larger swings in the population numbers for cities such as Basel, Rostock, Zurich, Danzig, Augsburg and Nuremberg. We have more data at our disposal for these cities than for the others, otherwise the same could be asserted in relation to other cases. At the end of the period—in comparison to the beginning of the increase in population—it is clearly shown in Hamburg, Breslau, Frankfurt am Main, Leipzig, Bern, Vienna. This urban increase in population can be generalized with regard to Central Europe in comparison to the Middle Ages; we take into ←81 | 82→consideration the whole, not the individual results. The effect of the plague in the 14th century on the cities of Central Europe can be identified. The population data cannot be abstracted from the social and economic events. These are bound up with the economic development of the entire region in the 15th, 16th, and 17th century. By contrast, the effects of the plague, of war and of the rearrangement of single industries or entire branches of industry are to be taken into account. The losses of Augsburg (45,000 in 1600, as opposed to 20,000 in 1650) of Berlin (13,000 in the year 1625, as opposed to 10,000 in 1645) and Frankfurt am Main (25,000 in 1600, 15,000 in 1650) are imputed to the impact of the Thirty Years’ War. Around the year 1700 people in Berlin and Frankfurt, as in Hamburg and Breslau, Leipzig among others, were able to recover.

The role of the state and its centralized administration was expanded and intensified. In this way, the increase in the population numbers of London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin are explained, leaving aside the fact that in this period there came great losses through fire, war and plague. The fortunes of war and the rearrangement of industries, trade, textiles had exerted an effect on the population numbers of Antwerp, Augsburg, among others in this period.

The total population of Central Europe from 1300 to 1500 remained fundamentally unchanged. The great losses of the 14th century, mainly through the plague, were counterbalanced by the natural increase of the population and improved living conditions. The fact that the numbers at the beginning and end of the period are the same, grossly speaking, conceals the great swings within the period. The population in the countryside in the 15th and 16th century increased as a percentage in comparison to the total population numbers and to the portion of it in the countryside. Probably 10% is too low, 25% would be too high an assumption in relation to the total for the urban population of Central Europe; the general tendency lies in-between, at around 15%. The same is valid for Italy, France, the Netherlands and England.

There were small and large swings in the urban population numbers of Central Europe from the 14th to the 17th century. Hamburg, Basel, Breslau, Frankfurt am Main, Freiburg/Switzerland, Danzig, Augsburg, Nuremberg all have lost as well as gained. The increase can be imputed to the immigration to the land, the losses, mainly to war and the plague. The following table provides the size of population for select cities in Central Europe from the 14th to 17th century:

←82 | 83→

Table 3: Population of Some Cities in Central Europe in the 14th–17th Centuries

Around 1700, the urban population of the Kurmark Brandenburg accounted for 40% of the population of the total Kurmark; the portion of the population of the countryside in Central Europe accounted for a third of the total. In relation to the Kurmark it is reckoned that Berlin had developed from a small to a large city, which was traced back to changes in the city’s position and its functions. Central Europe from the 15th to 17th century had no centres of large industry, rather its cities were points of trade, administration, garrison, workshops and supply. The ←83 | 84→fabrication of products of industry through workshop labour, the guilds and manufacture were supplemented by auxiliary operations in the countryside of cloth as well as of metal, wood, horn and leather works.2

In relation to the movements of population from the country into the city one can distinguish the coerced moments from the forces of attraction. Sir Thomas More wrote in his book Utopia in 1525, that while men are eating mutton elsewhere, in England the sheep are eating men. With this well-known sentence, he wanted to say that the fields of agriculture were kept free for sheep pasture, that is free for wool production. The peasants were in this manner driven into the city. Changes in property law as well as in the practices of agriculture were introduced in the interests of the landed gentry. Bands of robbers had an easier time plundering a farm and especially an isolated one than cities. These negative factors had caused immigration to the towns. Positively its attraction can be explained by the increase in urban enterprises, expanding trade and handicraft businesses and by the beginnings of manufacturing. Further, the formation of the nation state system in large parts of Europe amplified the administrative activities of the cities; and as a result, the increasing military power of the rulers of England, France, Prussia, Austria, Russia and Spain is linked during the 16th to 18th century.

The mechanisms of supply for the city, for the royal court, the garrisons and barracks were developed and narrowly bound up with domestic and foreign trade. Yet, the great bulk of the population remained in the countryside. Towards the end of the 16th century, 2/3 of the population of Flanders was in the country, a third was urban. Development of the population of the Kurmark Brandenburg occurs in the 17th century.3 In these movements of emigration and immigration expansion of free mobility in the law and of illegal immigration is presumed. Freedom of relocation is related to the already mentioned negative and positive factors of mobility. The legal prohibition against moving to the town was in practice either expressly or implicitly rescinded. The oft cited sentence “town air is liberating” [Stadtluft macht frei] assumed this possibility of immigrating into the city, to search out a dwelling, to earn money, to establish a family, to raise children, and to lead a bourgeois life. Yet, that sentence corresponds rather to the medieval legal customs and practices than to those of modern times. Pro forma the legal freedom of movement includes within it the incontestable right of relocation into the town. The goal of town freedom was reached only pro forma in the 15th to 17th century. In substance the possibilities of city life in Central Europe as well as in other parts of the continent were limited by economic conditions. There were few jobs, un—and underemployment were widespread, economic development occurred sporadically, quicker or also slowly or even stagnating. The housing problem in the large cities ←84 | 85→remained severe and devastating for immigrants from the country and from other countries into the 19th and 20th century.

As with the losses due to war, so too did diseases, like the plague, the Saint Valentine’s plague, epilepsy, apoplexy, consumption, typhus, cholera, boils (carbunculus, tumour, ulcus, pustula) syphilis, common pestilence, caused a large drop in population numbers. Medicine in the 15th century had asserted the contagious pestilence was linked with a disease of a nervous character, like consumption. Yet the plague was the main illness; according to the medical view, lung infection, the black death, pestilence, bubonic plague, among others went along with it.

The plague was classified as the infectious or decimating plague. Medicine had separated morbus as a disease from the plague and asserted morbus curabilis est, sed diu durat, ‘plague’ [morbus is curable but from Diu to Durat—a distance of 540 kilometres—there is plague]: Morbus, of the diagnostic practice in medicine from the 13th to the 17th century was a disease that was curable, however, plague was not; as a means against the plague, no herbs grew in the garden: diu durat, plague’, that is, the plague was of long duration. Diseases were the corruption of the body, wheezing, coughing fever, which brought phthisis, along with it coughing and gasping fever. Phthisis was designated as wasting, consumption or marasmus. An attempt had been made to investigate morbidities according to their source. Yellow fever was designated as the West Indian plague in opposition to the occidental or bubonic plague (also pestilential bubo). Disease comes to man out of the air; in this way, poisoned air was called malaria (mal=bad, aria=air). In this sense, Martin Luther had explained the prolonged disease as consumption and lamented cold air. Paracelsus imputed consumption to the pharmacen family—“which affects man with sweat” [“der dem Menschen ihr Schweiß berühret”]. The origin of this expression is clear: Pharmakon in Greek means two things, remedy or medicine and poison or ruin and a means for bringing calamity. With the war the bubonic plague was identified as a plague of encampment.4

The Black Death appeared 1347/52 as something unusual in the history of the late Middle Ages in Europe. It came from Central Asia over the harbour cities of the Black Sea, mainly on the Crimean Peninsula towards Constantinople and the Aegean Sea. Then it was spread over the Near East from the Nile to Anatolia, across the Mediterranean to Libya, Tunesia, Sicily, Sardinia, across the coastal cities of Italy and the Iberian Peninsula, thereafter across France, the British Isles, the neighbouring states of the North and Baltic Seas, finally across Central and Eastern Europe until it reached Northern Russia. It originated in Asia, travelling over the Silk Road through caravans, thereafter across the sea by means of ships in connection with the silk, slave and fur trade. It was spread by parasites on flea infested rats. Milan was able to avoid the plague because it was not immediately ←85 | 86→linked to trading ships. It was spread through many cycles from 1347/52 into the 18th century and beyond.5

In Eigentliche Beschreibung aller Stände auf Erden [Actual description of all classes on earth], the so-called Ständebuch by Hans Sachs and Jost Amman from Nuremberg, there emerges the picture of commercial life in the 16th century in wood cuts and in poetry. Of the 114 figures 99 portray the trades, the arts, handicrafts and trade, while the rest appear like scenes out of the ship of fools, like the picture of court jesters, fools, gluttons, profligates, of popes, kings and gentlemen [gentilons]. Nuremberg was the great city of metal working; of the 99 trades, there were 26 involving metal workers, such as the copper, knife, scythe, can, brass, gold, and ironsmiths, the bell and candlemakers, cymbalists and goldbeaters, armourers and ring makers, thimble makers, needle makers, nail makers and hook and eye makers, polishers, locksmiths and spur makers, wire drawers and coiners among others. Woodworkers were lathe operators, joiners, sifters, cartwrights, and carpenters. Wool and fustian weavers, silk embroiderers, cloth cutters, hat makers, rope makers, carpet makers and tailors, purse makers, belt makers, shoelace makers, leather workers, parchment producers [Permenter], saddle makers and shoemakers created cloth, clothes and leather commodities. Occupations dealing with food were those of peasants, producers of oil, producers of grapes, fishers, bakers, brewers, hunters, millers and butchers. Huntsmen were bird catchers on water and land. Salesmen and storekeepers mediated between producer and buyer, when the tradespeople did not conduct their own business with the producers of commodities. The salesmen were interested in the import of commodities en gros, not in the sale of home-made products. These were sold by shopkeepers. Aside from book publishers the producers of the Ständebücher did not affect the putting out and manufacture in Nuremberg (see reproductions).6

Central Europe was almost but not entirely self-sufficient through its domestic agricultural production; the overwhelming majority of the population from the 15th to 17th century was based on the land, namely occupied with working the land. The importation of foreign products, for example, wool, spices, precious metals, stands in opposition to the economic self-sufficiency of the area. The expansion of the market, wage, and money economy and manufacture in this period led to the collapse of the old social and economic system, that had more to do with natural materials, agricultural products and less to do with commodity exchange, money and credit.

3.2 The Condition of the Peasants

Regarding agricultural relations and the condition of the peasants the concept [Begriff] of Central Europe in the 14th to the 17th century was inconsistent. ←86 | 87→Europe west of the Elbe found itself—in opposition to the peasants east of the Elbe—in a process of general liberation, which was accelerated in the 18th century. To be sure the East Elbian peasants had greater freedom than the peasants west of the Elbe in the Middle Ages, but the situation of those in the east worsened after the middle of the 15th century. The meaning of the word serfdom varied from one country to another, but the situation of the peasant estate at this time in the west was in the matter of its emancipation in general better than that in the east, although Mark Brandenburg (west of the Elbe) was subject to the same unfreedom as the eastern provinces.7

The situation of the peasants was unfavourable and grave in the 16th century. The peasant is the only one to complain about his lot in the Ständebuch by Hans Sachs and Jost Amman:

Ich aber bin von Art ein Bauwr /

Mein Arbeit wirt mir schwer und sauwr /

Ich muß Ackern / Seen und Eggn /

Schneyden / Mehen / Heuwen dargegen /

Holtzen / und einführn Hew und Treyd /

Gült und Steuwr macht mir viel Hertzleid

Trinck Wasser und iß grobes Brot /

Wie denn der Herr Adam gebot.

However, in kind I am a peasant/

My labor becomes hard and sour for me/

I must work the field, sow and reap/

Cut, moe and hew against it/

Chop wood/ and bring in hay and grain/

Money and taxes give me much heartache

Drink water and eat coarse bread/

As then Adam was commanded by God.8

His worries did not derive then only from the difficult field work, but rather also from the money economy and the payment of taxes.9 He was not burdened with corvée but rather with money debt. The prices for the products of urban production are too great for the likes of him, even when he produces wheat, fruit, wine, vegetables, meat and leather for himself. These verses were published 43 years after the great peasant uprising of 1525. The margin squeeze between the products in the country and city were the same in the 16th century as we know in the 20th century. Prices of the country products fell, those of the city rose, and that worsened the situation of the peasants. Slicher von Bath believes, the situation in the east Elbian part of Central Europe would have appeared to be worse than ←87 | 88→in western Germany, but better than in Poland and Russia in the early epoch of modern bourgeois society.10

Peasants in the south and southwest of the Central European region were rebellious in 1423, 1431, 1449, 1459, 1475. The Bundschuh movement made its appearance on the Upper Rhein and lasted 24 years, until 1517. In 1503, Der Arme Konrad was formed and lasted until the uprising of 1512/13, which was set off by the poor harvest result of the same year. In 1524/25, the great peasant uprising and the peasant war took place in Hessen, in the Electoral Palatinate, in Wurttemberg, in Swabia and Brandenburg, in Thuringia, in Tirol, Salzburg, Upper Austria (Steyr), Carinthia (Friesach), Steiermark (Leoben), in Hungary, in the Confederations (Bern, Zurich, Saint Gallen and Appenzell), in Alsace and in Lorraine. The causes were traced back to money and tax burdens, which were to be redeemed by the serfs, and to the poor harvest result. The peasant uprisings nevertheless had other causes, which we recognize.

In 1476, a shepherd, Hans Böhm, in Taubertal, preached that Holy Mary had commanded him to tell the people to kill the pope and the clerics, priests and the rich. Tithes and interest were only alms. All people, princes, masters, citizens, peasants should work for their daily wages and with their own hands earn their keep in a brotherly fashion. All tributes should be abolished, hunting and fishing should be open to all. Declarations of freedom and brotherhood as well as the right to wage labour and to the abolition of serfdom are repeated in the declarations of peasant liberation. Wage labour became a symbol of freedom and equality. All men should labour for their daily wage. The program of the peasants and herdsmen was expressed in this respect in two ways. For one, wage labour was considered the free employment of all men. But this way of thinking presented above all the wish and desire of servile labourers; wage labour signified liberation from forced corvée service. For another the same program expressed the peasant demands for liberation from all forms of exploitation. Pope and clerics, priests and the wealthy should work for their daily wage as well. In 1460, the Bundschuh was spread in the Hegau, in Alsace. In 1502, in one of the Bundschuh, the serf Joss Fritz demanded the abolition of all interest and tributes. Serfdom should end, water, forest and pasture should become common property.11 The declarations of the pursuit of justice are not singular appearances, but precursors of the subsequent demands of the peasant war.

Pentacost 1524, the peasants armed themselves in the Black Forest, at Bonndorf in the provincial county Stühlingen in Hegau, for an uprising,12 led by the Lutheran minister Doctor Balthasar Hubmaier. The peasants had discussed their tribulations under corvée services. In this case they were unfree in the formal sense. The relationship to the Reformation has often been noticed; that Martin ←88 | 89→Luther himself published the document Wider die mörderischen und räuberischen Rotten der Bauern [Against the murderous and thieving bands of peasants], in which he wrote: “Therefore to that end should be thrown, choked, stabbed, in secret or openly, by whosoever is able, and consider that nothing can be more poisonous, more harmful, more devilish than a rebellious man …” does not refute this assertion.

The peasants had written down their demands programmatically in the form of articles. The articles whose content was differently composed according to local conditions were passed on from some farms. The best known of these peasant programs is perhaps that of the twelve articles of the Baltrigen group, composed and distributed in March 1525. The peasants did not themselves write down their articles; they had invited a furrier apprentice, Sebastian Lotzer, to compose the twelve articles. The student of Zwingli, Christoph Schappeler had written the preface for the articles. Both had previously composed, printed and distributed several leaflets. The relationship of the movement to writing and the art of printing, as well as to the suffering and the increasing social consciousness of the peasants became even more visible through them.

In the first article the peasants demanded the right to elect and scrutinise their own priest. He should preach the Gospel without any man-made additions. Second, the peasants wanted to deliver the exact grain tithes, as instituted in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New, and no more than these. Third, the peasants held, contrary to the previous custom that the rulers maintained them as their own people, inserted with the justification: “seeing that Christ saved and purchased all with the spilling of his precious blood.” They rejected complete freedom—without any authority, for “god did not teach us that.” They argued: “Therefore it follows from the Bible that we are and want to be free.” Yet they showed the will to be obedient to the authority. The third article leads to the practical conclusion: “We also have no doubt you will gladly release us from serfdom as true and just Christians as rendered by the Gospel, that we are legally in bondage.” The fourth and fifth article explain the peasants’ right to venison, fowl, fish and groves, which the rulers acquired disproportionately and in an unbrotherly way. The sixth and seventh articles explain the aggravation of services, which are increased daily; the eighth grapples with wages and interest. Interest should be set fairly “so that the peasant does not ply his labour for nought, for daily labour of any kind is worthy of his wage.” In the ninth article the peasants insist that “we” be treated “according to the old written punishment”, “and not by favour.” In the tenth article complaints are recorded “that some have acquired meadows, of the same field, which however belong to a community.” One ought to “compare oneself in a goodly and brotherly fashion according to the shape of the matter.” “We shall take the same again ←89 | 90→into our common hands.” The eleventh article deals with the right of widows and orphans to what belongs to them.

In the peasants’ war 1524/26 about 100,000 people lost their lives. In one campaign over 5,000 peasants were killed and left for dead, others were taken prisoner. In Brandenburg, a further 80 peasants were beheaded, 69 peasants had their eyes plucked out and their fingers broken.13

Peasants were variously oppressed by corvée service and money tribute. The manorial system was not everywhere the same but operated and led according to different terms of the dominant, communal and private law. The regulation of peasant rights in the direction of the private and money economy led to a liberation of the peasants in the formal sense; that means, peasants in the domains and manors were formally-juristically unfree, compulsory services were in the same sense performances by the unfree. In the northeastern parts of Germany during the waning years of the Middle Ages and in the first centuries of the modern era the conditions of peasant unfreedom were continued, while they were abolished early in the south and the west. In part, the peasants won these rights through their own rebellious activities. In general, the principle was ascertained from the 15th and 16th century, that formally-juristically unfree labour stands opposed to the capitalist conditions of economy. In the twelve articles the peasants again took a strong position against serfdom. Their prime example for the labour of the future is wage labour. The herdsman, Hans Böhm, and the composers of the twelve articles, return to this point expressis verbis in the eighth article. The alternative to serfdom and compulsory services is wages by the day and piece. This appears in the capitalist era not for the first time in human history, but it now corresponds to the aspirations of the peasants. Objectively serfdom and the performance of compulsory service are replaced by relations of the market and exchange, wage labour and money economy. In place of labour tribute or products in natura, the peasants demanded freedom and finally reached their goal. Freedom is multiple in the formal sense of freedom to leave one’s domicile, place of residence or location of work, to move freely. To this is to be added the legal and political freedom, freedom of thought, of belief and of the press.

Capitalist exploitation is the effect of this program. The peasants constituted the vast majority of the population in the transition period, and thus they had formed the quantitative condition for the transition; they sacrificed their lives to achieve their principles. The fate of the peasants is the negative principle for the revolution of feudal society. The positive principles are the active role of the economic system of the market, of money, of wage labour, of the capitalist entrepreneurs and the social system of the parties, of the education system, of writing, of law and of the ethos tied up with it.

←90 | 91→

The program of the rebellious peasants in the 16th century insisted on the continuation of the old common laws. Wage labour was considered a step forward at the time of the peasant movement of liberation, even when day and piece wages as the conditions of labour in the mines, in the working of materials of the putting-out system and in manufacture were inhuman and frightful. Contemporary movements of wage labourers in Frankfurt am Main, in Nuremberg, in Augsburg, in Joachimstal and elsewhere—the movements and uprisings of apprentices and miners’ guilds had taken up only superficial contact with the uprising of the peasants. The relations of wage labour are nonetheless progressive in comparison to the conditions of serfdom and the rebellious peasants were aware of it (see the third article). Progress was and is defined and in part determined through the actualization of the formal-legal system of freedom.

The termination of relations to the past was only partly accomplished during the 15th to the 17th century. Elements of a patriarchal agricultural system were continued into the 19th century in Electoral Saxony, Thuringia, Brandenburg and Hanover. Various forms of landed property were conditioned by the transition to modern bourgeois society.14 The landed property of the domain and of the manor were widespread east of the Elbe; the domains of the Junkers were in many cases leased so that in northeastern Germany it amounted to a mixture of peasant farms and manorial estates, which continued into the 19th century. Duties to the lord in the form of feudal services, domestic and forced services were maintained into the era of high capitalism.15

Peasants in east and western Germany had developed by means of various activities of colonization and rebellion, various property rights and forms of leasing. The peasants east of the Elbe who were settled on deserted farms by landlords [Gutsherren] before and during the Thirty Years’ War, had no property rights in them in the ordinary sense, for they could not sell or mortgage the property. The peasant could only dispose of the harvest. The right to inherit the property came to them after the fact. These peasants were called Lassiten [or those who could bequest possession but not ownership to their heirs—trans.]. In the east there was non-inheritable land possession [Landbesitz] also small farmers [Büdner], cottagers [Häusler], cotters [Kossäten] (Cf. Kote, Kotsass).16 The lord of the manor stood under compulsion for care, the subjects under compulsion to work. The title bearer of the manor had made the peasants into hereditary subjects, which not all of them were previously. The liberation movements of the 16th century had little impact on the countries east of the Elbe. Hans Böhm, Joss Fritz, Hans Sachs and the Twelve Articles pointed to the fact that the money economy emancipates, that wage labour emancipates. The former is in the country as well as in the town, the latter is mainly to be found in the town. Town air emancipates in both cases, ←91 | 92→country air emancipates in the first case. The expansion of daily wage labour in the country follows in the late periods. The cottager had his house in the village, but he had no land.17 Overseer of the villa rustica [Villicus, curagundarius], steward and land custodian of all kinds did not disappear all at once, but rather gradually. Fronhof [Villication or manorial estate] was dissolved in the Steiermark in the 12th century and replaced by late villication [Rentengrundherrschaft, whereby labour services were replaced by money payments—trans.]. The path to a money economy was thus prepared and reinforced.18 In the 15th to the 17th century the rights of peasant landownership became consolidated and there was a generalization of tax burdens. Tax freedom of the privileged estates was reduced. The money economy had led to formal equality in society, for the circulation of money, money tax and money rent was tied up with it.

The struggle over forest, meadow, and water rights is bound up with the division of the commons [Gemeinheiten]. But they are not the same thing in this struggle; moreover, the lifting of the commons and the setting aside of the conflict of diverse interests do not necessarily belong together. The peasants in the 15th and 16th century had demanded the right to hunt game, catch fish, gather wood and the right of return viz. to the maintenance of the customs of the common especially in relation to the forests, meadows and water. Here the community kept the meaning of the country community, the town had another history and meaning. The former was derived from the epoch prior to written history, the latter appears in later history and becomes approved and recognized by the state. The abolition of Flurzwang [forced regulation within the three-field economy] and of servitude, of land consolidation or of the degradation of the community was related to the villages and farms in the 16th and 17th century. The communal rights to the land were degraded in connection with the liberation of the peasants and the individualization of the rights of property in the land.19

The capitalist entrepreneur is fundamentally the representative of private interests and of the private sphere in social life. In the era of modern bourgeois society, he stands in opposition to the public interest and the state. Adam Smith and G.W.F. Hegel have confirmed these oppositions of the 18th and 19th century. The process is also to be found in the 15th to 17th century as well in the conflict between the capitalist and the feudal lord. The latter was simultaneously master of the public and private power; he was neither statesman nor private man alone, but rather both without difference together. In the post-feudal era, the capitalist appears on the side of the private interests, and he puts himself on the side of the state in the course of his altercation with the feudal lords. Conversely, after the capitalist has become master in his own house, he puts himself on the side of state power, manifested implicitly in the 15th to the 17th century, explicitly in the 19th. ←92 | 93→The struggle between the two ruling classes in this period was already decided in substance even if not in the formal sense.

The money economy mediated the transition from the natural economy to the new economic and social situation. The money economy already determined the struggle between the money masters and landed authorities, between the new capitalists and the old aristocrats in the 15th to the 17th century.

The peasants in the wars of liberation brought to expression the problem of the struggle over benefits [Rentenkampf] when they declared themselves opposed to interest, taxes, land tax in money or in kind [Gült], compulsory labour [Frondienste] and compulsory collective services [Scharwerk]. Further, the problem of the struggle over benefits appears in the dispute between the old masters of the land, that is the aristocrats and clerics, on the one side, and the capitalists, the new men, on the other, and this is reflected in the 19th century in the novels of Balzac and Chekov. But the problem is not put to rest, for there is a further historical dynamic at play.

The passing of medieval and the beginning of capitalist relations concerning the process of production in the countryside could be linked with the struggle over ground rent. However, rent is a form in which the surplus product of the land objectively appears. The peasants produced a surplus, and many of them fought very hard against ground rent in word, in deed, and in life. Hence, ground rent is an important matter, and its alienation from the immediate producers is important as well. The integration of the peasants into the money economy, that is into domestic and foreign trade, into the market for agricultural products, further peasant wages in the form of money, the development of prices and the total income of agriculture constitute factors, which are equally dynamic and important in relation to the theoretical conception of periodization in history. All mysticism aside, the peasants grasped concretely, that this was about the division of plots of land, about the rights to the use of the soil, wages and salaries.

Wilhelm Abel investigated the relation between the social conditions in the countryside and the prices for agricultural products.20 If prices rose, conditions on the land improved. World depression led to the deterioration of life. These conclusions signify two things: first, the increase and decrease in prices imply the presence of a price and money economy, of market relations, of world trade and traffic; second, the early-modern peasants of Central Europe in the waning years of the Middle Ages to a certain extent, but then, primarily in the first centuries of modern bourgeois society, in the 15th century and thereafter, participated immediately in these relations. If one were to say that the relations of the natural economy were continued, then this assertion would only have a formal significance. In substance, the peasants had participated in the world market already in the 15th to the 17th century and they had already contributed in an essential way to money revenue at ←93 | 94→first west of the Elbe, thereafter in the territory east of the Elbe as well. In this context one can speak of world money and world trade. Further, Abel researched movements in agriculture, that is depression and the rise of prices concerning production relations, following the expansion and contraction of settlements, the partial and regional desolation of meadows. The decline of the settlements and of production led to a decline in the income of the peasants and landlords. The margin price worked to the disadvantage of the peasants. The income of the lords was not uniformly recouped or handed over. In 1600, Cloister Eberbach on the Rhine had leased some assets against a third of the harvest. The tenants were also obligated to corvée. The cloister had many assets which they owned in a wide circle from Koblenz to Limburg and Frankfurt am Main. The cloister steered a portion of rent, corvée services, money and products in the form of taxes and appraisals of the authorities further to the landlords and bishops. The latter devoured the surpluses of their own peasants and tenants, since the cloister was forced to lend money to the authorities and to tolerate “unadorned blackmail”. This led to the “gradual decline of the Abbey Eberbach.”21

The agricultural economy in Central Europe 1511–1625 had among others the products:

Cultivation of grain: wheat*, rye*, barley*, oats*, millet

Cultivation of vegetables: beans*, peas, carrots, parsnips, corn salad, radishes, small radishes, turnips, fodder turnips, rapeseed, cabbage, onions, peas (large, early), vetches [vicia], lentils, alfalfa

Spun yarn: Flax*, other varieties of flax, hemp, linen*

Viniculture: Grapes, raisins*, wine*

Colored plants: Woad, madder, safflower, dyers saffron, saffron, vinegar

Oil production: Rapeseed, roots, poppy seed, flax and hemp seed

Bees: honey, wax

Cattle: cheese*, butter*, meat*, leather*

Pigs: meat*, leather

Sheep: meat, wool*


Fowl: Geese*, chickens*, swans, peacocks

←94 | 95→

Fish:* Herring, salmon, pike, carp, sturgeon

Wood* and charcoal*

Salt production: Salt*

Beer: small beer*, export beer*, malt*, hops*

*The main commodities in the exact sense. They were reckoned into the development of price and wages 1511–1625. The other products were not eo ipso excluded from these accounts.

That the agricultural products were transformed into commodities through market, exchange, price and wage relations, offers no proof that the feudal was replaced by the capitalistic economy. There is also talk of corvée emancipation payment [Frongeld] as there was of corvée emancipation services which were transformed into money at the beginning of modern times, that is in the 15th and 16th century.22 Only when the total relations in the process of production, distribution, and consumption are investigated, can the degree of transformation from the feudal system into the modern bourgeois society be assessed. There is thus not one lone marker that will express or determine the transition. To be sure, some researchers have chosen such activities as double-entry bookkeeping or savings as the spiritual exposition of inner-worldly asceticism, as the express symbol of this transition. The entrepreneurs played an important role, the rebellious peasants and the organization of labourers in sea trade, in mining, and in the print industry are important as well.23

The figure of the exploiter was not constructed through simple economic relationships, but rather through several internal levels opposed to one another, secular and clerical. In this case it was the lowly in the abbey itself, the lofty in the land authorities and in the bishopric. The figure of exploitation is complicated by the fact that in part it consists of corvée service and forced collective labour [Scharwerk], in part of money tribute, in whatever form it may appear. The agricultural product was sold on the world market. In Lower Saxony aristocratic families arose, which took part in such enterprises and were referred to as aristocratic capitalists.24 At this time capital did not flow from the countryside to the town, but rather conversely, from the trades and towns to the country, which remains noble.25 In the period of high capitalism, on the contrary, capital was pulled out of the country into the city enterprises. The population increase in Central Europe during the 16th century resulted from the expansion and intensification of land cultivation of all kinds, of trade, of cattle raising, of fishing and of salt production. The same facilitation of the conditions of the agricultural economy also occurred in the Netherlands. The organization of labour in production in the countryside was ←95 | 96→improved on the coasts of the Baltic and North seas by the specialization of dairy products. The fattening of cattle led to the development of trade with Flanders and Holland, which bore within itself the further development of the money economy. The price revolution of the 16th century was related to the upswing of agricultural production, founded on the increase in the price of grain. This was almost everywhere the case in Central Europe in the 16th century and was linked to the boom in agriculture. Foreign and domestic trade were bound tightly to one another: the upswing was disrupted by the peasant wars, yet the disruption was temporary. The growth of the conditions of agricultural production, of the population numbers and of the transition to modern bourgeois society continued to advance.26

On the basis of past customary practices and rights of use the peasants kept their cattle on the common meadows and gathered wood in the common forest. The disparate condition was variously administered, in some cases by a regulation of the stock of cattle on the common meadows; each and every peasant had a recognized right to have his cattle graze there. These rights were reduced in the course of the 15th and 16th century and some traditional customs were lost in this connection. The peasants during the peasant wars complained that their right to fish in the community waters was denied and the right to hunt was taken away because the lords disproportionately acquired the venison, game, fish, wood and meadows of the same farmland, which, however, belonged to the community. The peasants repeatedly returned to the complaints that the lords have behaved in a non-fraternal way. The peasants’ idea of fraternity consists in the belief that the ancient rights of commonality of meadows, forest, fish and bird catching as well as hunting in the forest and the rights of using the wood ought to continue without disruption. Thus, in the peasants’ conception there was an internal connection between commonality and fraternity.27

In the ensuing centuries, the abolition of the commons and the setting aside of the complex conditions were not considered as a singular question. By legislation and quiet forgetting, the separation or division of the commons was carried through in Prussia, elsewhere in the integration, realignment of boundaries, consolidation, or interlinking of the dissolution or expansion of the community. In the bishopric of Kempten in Allgäu land consolidation parcelling [Vereinödung] was recorded in the middle of the 16th century.28

In opposition to the picture portrayed by Janssen and Pareto of bourgeois life in the 14th to the 16th century, Abel wrote about devastations—devastations of places and of fields—in the late Middle Ages. There followed a period of peasant prosperity, for example, in Schleswig-Holstein and in Fehmarn, as well as in the south and southwest of Germany from the end of the 15th until the beginning of the 17th century.29 Günter Franz assessed the following epoch of the Thirty Years’ ←96 | 97→War in relation to the losses of war differently for the city and the populations in the countryside: for the latter 40%, for the former 33% damages. In relation to the total losses he put together the following picture: More than 40% losses: Trier, the Palatinate, Wurttemberg, Mecklenburg, Pomerania, Brandenburg, Thuringia. 40 to 50% losses: in Alsace, Swabia, Franken, Bavaria, Bohemia, Brandenburg, Magdeburg, Hessen, Breisgau, as well as Saxony and Lower Saxony. 30 to 40%: in South Bavaria, North Swabia, parts of Magdeburg, West Hessen. 20 to 30%: in North Trier, Paderborn, Berg, Cologne, Julich, Lusatia, Silesia and parts of Breisgau and Wurttemberg. 10 to 20%: Munster, Bohemia (in part), Moravia, and parts of Lower Saxony and Saxony. 1 to 10%: the vicinity of Hanover and Bremen. Other parts of Central Europe, like Switzerland, Austria (Tirol), Holstein, Aachen and surrounding area, Emden and surrounding area and Burgundy were less impacted by this war.

Franz writes as follows: “In Mark Brandenburg and Mecklenburg, Thuringia and Hessen, Wurttemberg of the Upper Rhein Plane and of the Palatinate there were wide stretches which lay devoid of people after the war.”30 The greatest ravages of war originated in the second half of the period of the war. Thereafter, the situation of the peasants improved, which can be deduced from the general economic growth and the corresponding increase in population numbers. The absolutist state in the late 17th and in the 18th century had assured internal civil peace; civil rights as well as peasant rights had been extended. A further stage in the history of modern bourgeois society corresponded to these formal improvements. The notorious absolutism of the state in the 18th century was welcomed in comparison to the previous chaos.

In the 15th and 16th century the already previously begun dissolution of the single farm and villication [a villa worked under supervision of a manager] systems and the loosening up of living conditions continued. The rights of peasant assets and the right to inherit them had increased. Production on the land had been further extended and the forests were forced back. The extensive cultivation on estates was conducted in connection with the cultivation of land in the east. The cultivation in the three-or-more field system—commonly the summering, the wintering and the fallow—were extended through the intensification of market gardening. The specialized culture of plant species which originated in the New World, for example, potatoes, corn, sunflowers, tobacco and tomatoes were first introduced or enlarged only in ensuing centuries. The development of fruit and wine production, the rationalization of grain production as well as technical improvements31 of fertilizer led to an intensification of agricultural production in the 15th to the 17th century.

←97 | 98→

Agrarian production in Central Europe had not only covered personal requirements but also produced a surplus during the period from the 15th to the 17th century. The expansion of arable farmland at the cost of virgin forest in Central Europe, the inclusion of the countries of the east in the transportation system of the agrarian economy, the rationalization in commerce and transport and the intensification in agriculture had led to the amplification of foreign trade as a consequence. Grain, wine, beer, cattle, leather, cheese, butter, meat and the secondary products of the agrarian economy, cloth, linen, oil were exported. The towns had lived from it, domestic and foreign trade had contributed further to the profit of agrarian products. The conjuncture and the turnover in seaport cities like Hamburg, Lubeck, Danzig and in river port cities like Cologne, were increased to the advantage of traders. Conversely merchants introduced spices, silk, velvet among other commodities. Overall, Central Europe was an area of export in relation to agrarian products; imported products were those of cotton, spices, precious metals and some luxury commodities (silk) from the region of the Mediterranean, from Mexico and Asia. Additional colonial commodities like cocoa, coffee, tea, further, precious tropical trees and shrubs and rubber, came to Central Europe only in the following period.

When one speaks of an economic miracle in the period of early capitalism, it thus had its basis in the agrarian economy. Even under the condition of the increase in the city population central European agrarian production could satisfy the increasing demand for the most part. Peasants had nevertheless continued in their rebellious orientation and in their activities in the southern and western parts of Central Europe. During the 16th, 17th, and 18th century, the peasants in Austria, Hungary, Bavaria, in Switzerland, in the Black Forest, in Hesse, on the Rhein and in Bohemia were rebellious. The exceptions were the east German peasants. That there was no uprising among them, Otto Hintze traced back to the effect of Lutheranism. Günter Franz emphasized other causes for the passive orientation of the east Elbian peasants: the lack of city life or of economic progress. “Nevertheless, the resistance against the excess of seigniorial pressure was stronger than one had previously assumed.”32

The marginal squeeze between peasant and town products to the advantage of the latter was not the only opposition between town and countryside. The town had its villages which lay in its vicinity which it took into protection and defense. The city of Frankfurt am Main had maintained security in the villages of Bonames, Bornheim, Oberrad, Sulzbach, Soden among others. The expressions, einem Herren hünen [to be a giant to a man], to belong to him, to be a serf, are in this connection synonymous. The villages were duty-bound to supply tribute in kind to the town, but not to provide compulsory labour. In the area around Frankfurt only the ←98 | 99→products of bodies of water and meadows were rendered to the Kaiser or rather to the lords-paramount of Hesse. Tributes for the City of Frankfurt consisted in the form of chicken parts taken from servile labour in payment of interest and the best cattle chosen by the lord on the death of the tenant [Leibhuhn, Besthaupt]. K. Bücher writes: “When Bechtram von Vilbel made the thoroughfares unsafe, Frankfurt residents of Dortelweil came to his defense.”33 They were right to reject the protection of the city, and this was then assumed by a powerful man. A certain freedom of the village corresponds to the law in the 15th century. Namely, the village had the right to choose between two masters; single persons enjoyed such a right as well. But there ought to be but one dominion. Conversely, many villages had still sought the security of town walls. The inhabitants of these localities had been subsumed under the authority of Frankfurt, such that the town council and its subjects were accountable to it. The village of Dortelweil was not the only case, for several villages in those uncertain times oscillated between two authorities. The obligations of the lord in relation to his subjects were given summary expression in that the lord is responsible to, promises, defends as well as secures and shields his subjects. At that time Frankfurt protected 103 localities and gave them civil law. Mainz had 40 localities; Ulm, Bingen, Worms and Speyer had comparable relations to their surrounding villages.

Dortelweil in the vicinity of Frankfurt can be recognized by the names of its village history; there was a hamlet in the past. Hamlet refers back to the old-High German wîlâri, Middle High German wîler, which is derived from the Latin villa.34 In the late Middle Ages a distinction was made between hamlet and village, but thereafter both words were loosely taken up in relation to the small towns and localities in the countryside.35 In 1498 the peasants of Oberrad decided, as they were burdened with a heavy monetary fine by the Frankfurt town council on account of insubordination: “… any serf should seek his master in opposition to the council …”36 [… jeglicher seinen leibangehörigen Herrn dem Rat zuwidder zu suchen …]. Thus, Bechtram von Vilbel was able to enrich himself in two ways, first as a highwayman and second as an exploiter of the Dortelweiler peasants.

The peasant villages of this period, although to a certain degree self-sustaining, were nevertheless still dependent on the industry of the towns. The by-laws of Saxony of 1482 had determined: “No one in a village who is not by some peculiar fashion freed should employ a tradesman.” Smithies and weavers of linen, who laboured for the requirements of the village and only in the areas distant from the town, were exempted from this prohibition.37 Village weavers received needles, yarn, thimbles, and spinning wheels from the town workshops.

The prohibitive declarations [Prohibitiverklärungen] by the Nurembergers assured the metal trades their share of the market. Production for the ←99 | 100→market—within the precinct—had been monopolized by the spectacle makers, wire drawers, trumpet makers, gold, and silversmiths, brass lathe workers and cymbalists. Distributors and precincts were already introduced by the end of the 13th century in Nuremberg. An order in council proclaimed: “No citizen, whether smithy or not, shall transfer a smith to his work within seven miles in all directions, with the exception of hammer smiths.” Whosoever transgresses the prohibition, should pay one of every fourth heller.38 Precincts were variously conceived. On the one hand, there was the concept of the precinct taken together with the protected area of the town. Within the precinct, securing of the civil peace was considered the task of the town of Mainz. It belonged to their administrative and judicial circuit. On the other hand, the precinct was taken together with the opposition between town and countryside—to the advantage of the town, as we have seen. The precinct of Landshut amounted to duum millarium, that of Brandenburg to trium millarium. In 1516 the precinct of Altenburg accounted for 2700 rods, and thus the extent of the city limits came to 630 square kilometres. Within the precinct of Basel in the 14th century seven villages were found.39

3.3 Labour Processes in the City: General Considerations Concerning Harmony and Struggle

The Central European town from the 15th to the 17th century looked nothing like its contemporary counterpart. It was small in comparison to today’s city; it was also small in comparison to the large cities of classical antiquity and of the Renaissance in the region of the Mediterranean. In 1520, the population of Naples was around 230,000; in 1550, the population of Cologne amounted to around 37,000. Cologne gradually attracted to it the surrounding boroughs, communities, peasant communities, and villages. As already stated, from 1300 to 1500 the population of Central Europe remained basically unchanged or perhaps even declined during the period of the Black Death.

The town at that time had no natural growth, since there was no special excess in births in relation to the death rate. Rather, the town population increased as a consequence of the physical expansion of the city limits; immigration into the towns also had a certain significance in this connection. One can visualize this first factor through city borough designations like “old town” and “new town”. Thus, Göttingen in 1319 had a new town, Thorn, an old town and a new town, Dortmund a new city and so on. Braunschweig at the same time was “a federal town of five municipal areas.” Historically, Hamburg arose out of the combination of two towns and the same is asserted of Halle on the Saale and of Salzwedel.40

←100 | 101→

Documents trace the founding of Berlin in the 13th century back to three localities, Spandau (1232), Berlin (1244) and Cologne [Cölln] (1237). The localization of cities is customarily linked with their functions as a cultural centre, as trade, transportation and communication, administration, mining settlement or as a Roman colony.

In the 12th book of his work De Re Metallica Georg Agricola dealt with the extraction of salt. Salts are not only indispensable for the life and health of people and of domestic animals, but for the industries of leather and metal processing, chemistry and so on, as well. Salt at that time was created and distributed as a state monopoly in connection with the salt tax. Thus, it appears as a means for the wealth of the state and the centralization of power in the hands of the authorities. The role of salt in social, economic and political life is recognized in the names of localities such as Salzbrunn, Salzdorf, Salzkammergut, Salzmine, Salzburg, Salzwedel.

The towns in Central Europe in the 15th to the 17th century were renowned for their handicraft products, such as, for example, Nuremberg for its metal processing. If one speaks of the harmony of city life, the literature in relation to this is ambiguous. Social relations were idealized and described as harmonious; the only disagreement were the hostilities among the master singers in the competition between the guild and future musicians of Nuremberg. Engels and Zimmermann, Kriegk and Schoenlank opposed these ideal-harmonious ideas.41

G.L. Kriegk was of the view that as the peasants rose up in the whole of southern and central Germany, the burghers of the towns in those areas were also rising up. Both classes were driven by one and the same spirit, as both had one and the same goal in sight. The peasant revolt was a revolutionary war of the entire underclass of the people in the town and countryside against the privileged secular and clerical estates, “thus a revolution in the full sense of the term.” Kriegk writes further of the uprising of the town from 1355 and uprisings of the handicraft guilds against the patricians at Nuremberg and Ulm.42 Bruno Schoenlank wrote of constant class struggles in Nuremberg over the entire course of the 16th century.43 The details in both works are treated carefully and reliably. The class struggle in Central Europe in the Middle Ages and in modern times is well described therein. However, in one sense the authors have decidedly exaggerated the significance of the movements. There were at that time contacts to a certain point between the rebellious peasants and the manual labourers in the towns which should be neither under—nor overestimated. Kriegk asserts that a revolution spreads across the town as across the peasantry, but this perhaps goes too far. Engels’ position in this question is well-known. Fundamentally, the peasants and the manual labourers did not mutually support one another; neither did the one struggle on the side of the other. The movement was not driven in common—it was not a revolution—the peasants’ program did not mention the condition in the towns, and only in specific ←101 | 102→cases such as in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Nuremberg or Bamberg, did the manual labourers in the town take up the cause of the peasants or join in the common struggle against the rulers. On the other hand, the historians did not go far enough. They took no notice of the uprisings of the miners’ guilds in Joachimsthal, Freiberg, Annaberg and elsewhere during the 15th and 16th century.44

In 1525 declarations of sympathy of the paupers of Nuremberg appeared on the side of the rebellious peasants; this was in one sense a fraternization of town folk [Bürger] and peasants. Schoenlank described the relation of the two in the following way: Among the fraternal organizations of the apprentices in Nuremberg the radical elements of the Reformation with their primitive utopianism and their radical critique of prevailing conditions found numerous supporters. Book publishing apprentices in Nuremberg secretly and in the absence of their masters published a polemical pamphlet of [Thomas] Münzer. Karlstadt pamphlets too were printed in Nuremberg and eagerly read. Monks who fled the monasteries united themselves with the apprentices. The outbreak of the Peasant Wars pulled in the poor people of Nuremberg as well in sympathy with those who rose up in May of 1524.

Not only the proletariat but the petit bourgeois also sympathized with the peasants. An innkeeper from the suburb of Wöhrd and a cloth maker apprentice [Tuchmacherknappe] were beheaded on account of their public declaration that town folk and peasants must stand together to rid themselves of the oppressive excess tax on drink and grain. When a baker’s servant made an illegal speech with a peasant and was put into a pit, the baker stood up on his behalf and the council set him free. This clever tactic saved the council; the reform of market money, of the excise tax, expenditure tax and of quit-rent [Erbzins] averted the threatening catastrophe.45

The interests of the journeymen and the peasants were in general the same. Both were poor. But that which the urban fraternities concretely demanded, had little in common with the program of the rebellious peasants. The dissolution of quit-rent, the reform of market money and of the excise tax on drink and grain were not listed in the peasant program. Schoenlank cited a list of single cases. The apprentice bakers demanded the release of their brother, not fraternity with the peasants. These causes are to all appearances not to be considered as a revolutionary mass movement. Those who judged the struggles of the 16th century in the 19th and 20th century have not freed those events from the historical categories such as reform, revolution, social change of the later period, but rather projected into the past later historical conceptions anachronistically. We will avoid such anachronism as much as possible.

←102 | 103→

One can speak of a certain utopianism of Thomas Münzer, as Schoenlank opines; he mentioned the ideas and sentiments of the peasants, and of the town fraternities. A member of Müntzer’s party, Heinrich Pfeiffer, had resided for a time in Nuremberg, but without exerting a deep impact on the urban working class. The views of Zimmermann, Kriegk, Schoenlank and others are perceptive, but in this regard not balanced. The following were apparently overlooked: In 1525, 70,000 to 100,00 peasants fell in this conflict. Yet no such war took place in the towns.

3.4 The Guild System, the Putting-Out System and Manufacture

The guild system dominated the labour and exchange process in the towns of Germany, such as in Cologne, Hamburg, Augsburg, Frankfurt, Danzig and Nuremberg. Since the producing unit was the workshop or the home, this concerns a small organism for the production of commodities, as we have already seen, as much as with a low and limited number of workers in the production process. The structuration and division of labour remained at a lower level in comparison to manufacture in the factories of later periods. To make this more concrete, we will consider a factory in England in the 15th/16th century. The history of the entrepreneur John Winchcombe, also known as Jack of Newbury, who died in 1519, is well-known from a poem written in the year 1597. The poem is in part a pure invention, composed in poor verse (doggerel), and is in part a romanticized view of the batch processing [Stapelbetrieb] of the wealthy man. The King of England, either Henry VII or VIII, was supposed to have exclaimed: “This Jack of Newbury is richer than I.” According to this poem, 200 weavers and an equal number of apprentices worked together in a great room; this is not a small workshop but rather a true factory. This is shown not only by the number of weavers and apprentices, but also by their being brought together in one room, and by the relatively detailed and complicated structuration of labour in the process of production for the time: furthermore, 100 women worked with the wool scrapers, 200 girls on the distaff and the spinning wheel, 150 children were employed as sorters of wool and in addition, there were 50 cloth cutters, 20 cloth walkers and 40 dyers.46 To these are to be added the conveyer and transportation labourers. The numbers appeared to be rounded up and hugely exaggerated. But even if they were halved, or even three quarters of them were removed, the business remains extraordinarily large in comparison with others of the same time, and in this lies the truth of the poetic recounting. Industrialization, manufacture in the factory and the extensive organization and division of labour in the creation of cloth disappeared temporarily after ←103 | 104→it. The causes of this fate were often investigated: The estates, the town council, the guild system and even the high authorities resisted it. The capitalists in the weaving industry were too weak to follow through with this new manufacturing practice in the 15th, 16th, and 17th century. The labourers on the contrary were engaged in opposition to it. Preparations for the great enterprises as in the 19th and 20th century were too early. Hence, the development of the process of production of great industry was not carried through with necessity or with internal logic.

The organization of labour and of the economy in the towns of Central Europe from the 14th to the 17th century was fundamentally regulated and controlled by the guilds. The guild is an inclusive and exclusive entity, dominated from without and from above; it is a hierarchical organization of labour, which reflects the graduated levels [Stufenhaftigkeit] of social life, by which it is determined.

The organization of the workshop was not only small in terms of the size of the undertaking, so that only a limited number of labourers—masters, journeymen and apprentices—would be set together, but furthermore they were separated in space as well. In the production of books there were three or four labourers at the press, two or three at the binder, both separated from one another. Rationalization of the process of production in the guild system was different from the system of manufacture and of the factory.

The ancillary trades of domestic labour in the putting-out system were regulated according to the pattern of the guild organization. A structuring of labour, the preparation of the apprentices in the process of production and the qualification of masters and journeymen conformed to the guilds. The oldest guilds were established in the 12th century. The trades of Central Europe, such as the shoemakers from Wurzburg and Magdeburg or the blanket weavers from Cologne, received, on the one hand, imperial privileges, and on the other hand, town rights; the same was also true for Augsburg, Ulm, Strasbourg, Mainz and Frankfurt am Main. Bound up with this was not only public permission to produce shoes, bed accessories or garments, but also personal freedom of the city, the securing of material life as well as the possibility of owning housing and property and participation in civic-police politics. The maintenance of guild privileges thus depended on the foundation of bourgeois existence and the classification of belonging together with the bourgeois estate.

The guild [Zunft] is a corporate body whose provenance is bound up with the verb ziemen, to behoove, to befit, in the original meaning to merge, to coalesce. Similar corporate bodies with comparable economic and social function are found in Chinese, Indian, Islamic and Japanese traditions. The guild in the Germanic tradition is traced back to concrete economic practices in building houses; it is bound up with the conceptual field of Bauholz, English timber, German Zimmer. It is abstract and can be traced back to the conceptual fields of dexterity, expediency ←104 | 105→and further to regulation, association. The guilds [Gilde], which in the late Middle Ages and in modern times, hence in the 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th century, played grosso modo the same economic and social role as did the guild in Central Europe, can also be traced back to a different etymological conceptual field. It is historically bound up with the words, money, to count [gelten], to repay [Vergeltung], further with paying taxes, sacrifice. Brotherhood and miner [Knappe] in the further Indo-Germanic realm indicate the more abstract conceptual field of guild [Zunft] in the sense of rule, association [Verein] (see above). Office [Amt], professional association [Innung], union [Einung] give expression to the coming together in the associations and the corresponding structuration of labour in the production and in the sale of commodities in the early history of the market economy.

The Central European tradition of the Guild [Zunft] and of the guild system [Gildewesen] is traced back to the encounter of various traditions. The capitularies from the time of Charlemagne, hence around 779, speak of ghildonia, confratria (fraternity), confederation (Eidgenossenschaft), and of the prohibition of these practices. Yet, the early ghildonia and brotherhood were strengthened in the economy and in law. In the late Middle Ages, the guilds supported and secured the peace of membership and the guild system the peace of the city (compare Anglo-Saxon Frith, i.e. peace guild [Friedensgilde]).

The guild [Zunft] as a corporate body is traced back to the early Germanic cooperative [Genossenschaft], Genootschap, and so on, on the one hand, and on the other to the Roman coporation and the collegium. The German Hansa was in its origin a merchants’ guild [Kaufmannsgilde] (kopgilde).

The concept of the guild is linked with crafts, concretely with the construction of houses, the concept of the guild [Gilde] with merchants. Both were hierarchized in the early history of economic and legal practices in the creation and process of trade and commerce. The step ladder of apprentices, of journeymen and of the guild masters appear to be almost the same in several professions and in several towns. The functions of the monopoly in production and sale in a specific field of commodities or of a service, such as that of the master singers, are shown as well in the Italian word moestranza, which has the same sense as the German Gilde. Also, the word Zunft or guild is the same as the Italian moestranza or corporazione. The structuring and division of labour, training and the welfare of the members as well as of their families, widows and orphans in the same organizations derive from antiquity and the Middle Ages. The progressive accomplishments and functions of the guild and Gilde systems are related to the quality of the products, such as their stand in opposition to the falsification of bread, to the forging of coins and so on, not to the quantity of products and the increase in profit.

The contradiction between the professional and creative practices of the guilds and the spirit of the capitalists, which is related to profit, led to the decline of ←105 | 106→the guild system. The guilds reacted negatively to the new modes of labour and commerce. In addition, they were manipulated as an instrument of the state and authorities in the class struggle. Their functions were in part superseded and overtaken by the new trade unions, in part through the new capitalist forms of organization in the period of the industrial revolution and of high capitalism. The important contributions of the guild system in the development of the structuration of labour in the late Middle Ages disappeared so that diverse figures such as Martin Luther, Hans Sachs, Goethe and Richard Wagner despised the guilds and cursed the guild spirit.47

In their history the guilds did not develop in a unitary fashion. Some guilds disappeared, the guild organizations of entire branches of the economy were lost. The towns on the other hand kept others, down to the epoch of high capitalism. The guilds maintained some control over jurisdiction, administration of justice and self-administration. This situation in law can also be exaggerated, for in the last instance the guilds were subjected to the jurisdiction of the town council and dependent on the authorities. The guilds and their membership were subjects in the period of absolutism to royal sovereignty, as Schiller poetically and consciously expressed it in Wallenstein.

The integration of the membership in the guild system—according to the ranking of apprentices, journeymen and masters—was related to their dexterity and assurance in the process of labour. The products of the guilds, like Nuremberg’s metal goods, were known for their high quality within and without the Central European region. Yet, a contradiction in the further development of these relations of labour developed. The forward moving structuring of labour in the new processes of production and in the new associations of handicraftsmen in the second half of our period, (in the 17th and 18th century) connected with it, abutted the limit of the internal organization of the old guilds and associations.48

The guilds in the late Middle Ages and in the early-modern period were closely linked with the public regulation and organization of the skilled crafts and their associations. Guild [Zunft], office [Amt], Gilde and trade guild [Innung] have a common significance and role according to local usage of language and traditions. For example, in the Hansa cities the designation office [Amt] was used in place of guild [Zunft] with the meaning of an assembly of independent handicraft masters of a particular profession in a town and each according to recognized trades, yet elsewhere in northern Germany the designation Gilde was usual. The appearance of similar associations in Italy, France, Spain, England, in the Netherlands and in the Scandinavian countries under the same conditions and roughly at the same time is well-known. The fortunes of the guilds are varying. They were repressed earlier in the Netherlands and in England than in Germany through the rise of ←106 | 107→manufacture and factories. Kulischer speaks of the transition to trades’ freedom in this context.49 The concept of freedom is in this case related to formal freedom. Freedom in one epoch is different than that in another. Hence, the guild system in the late Middle Ages was bound up with the freedom of the town, yet later it impinged upon the freedom of the trades, of the process of production and of civil (bourgeois) life.

The guild labourers, in the period from the 15th to 17th century, basically tradesmen in the workplaces of the town, were paid a money wage, but not seldom with natural products as well. Bestowments such as lodging, beer, etc. were points of dispute for artisans in negotiations and altercations between apprentices, guild masters and council.50 Apprentices as a social estate had the right to move freely. If the council had tried to take this freedom from them, the tradesmen would have fought against it. The freedom was mainly related to the change of place of residence, of the town and of the workplace, hence it was a physical, formal freedom. Master or council had the formal right to fire apprentices, which corresponded to a complementary formal freedom. Since the town labourers usually worked for another person—for a superior, a wealthy man—they were unfree in substance. They could not earn their daily bread except by working under these conditions. The freedom of the miners on the other hand reached further in a formal sense, as we shall see.

While peasants in the south and west of Germany fought for the freedom from corvée and forced collective labour, the town labourers as well as the miners and church attendants were to a certain extent free from them in the 15th and 16th century. The movements of journeymen in the towns (see above section 3.4) have some characteristics in common with the peasant movements, however, they certainly did not go as far as these. It concerns the formal freedom and equality of contract in the towns and the further formal freedoms of the miners. The working class in the towns had already won that which the peasants demanded. The social struggle which found expression in the peasant war and in their program, was about the freedom and equality of the peasant estate in society. The struggle of the labourers in the town as well as that of the capitalist enterprises was related to the formal juridical freedom of both sides and the corresponding equality without the explicit program. If someone could prove that he had signed a contract as an unfree person, as a servant under duress or threat, this was and is invalid in civil law; that which is now explicitly the case, was implicitly present in the early-modern epochs. This legal condition was set forth at the beginning of the capitalist era in negotiations concerning wages and the conditions of labour. Associations of journeymen negotiated with the council. In Frankfurt am Main the production of cloth was organized along guild lines in 1440, namely there were at this time 16 guilds in the textile trades whose members were recognized as independent earners:

←107 | 108→

Table 4: Number of Textile Guilds and Their Independent Members around the Year 1440


Independent Earners

Blanket borers


Cloth walkers


Dyers (2 guilds)


Fustian weavers


Linen weavers


Preparers of cloth (3 guilds)


Rope makers


Wool weavers (6 guilds)


Aside from the actual wool weavers there were the cloth washers [Zauwer], Spansetzer, wool cleaners or preparers of raw wool [Wollenschläger], one who weighs wool [Wollenwieger], wool combers. Together there were 6 guilds of wool weavers.

Preparers of cloth, cloth finishers and planers together made up the 3 guilds of preparers of cloth. Beside the dyers there were assistant dyers [Kumpknechte or Kesselknechte]; 2 guilds. Altogether there were 16 cloth processing guilds. Of those, 115 wool weavers were self-employed; 5 had one son each in the trade, 2 each had a servant weaver. The remaining wool weaving enterprises had neither sons nor menials. Of 3 sons, one worked with cloth finishers, one with preparers and one son with planers; there were no menials. The dyers had 6 members of the guild, of them one dyer’s son, 4 menials, in addition to 2 assistant dyers [Kumpknechte, Kumpenknechte], who together were active in the same dying house of the weavers’ guild. The Zauwer were also called tanners [Kompgenger, Kumpengänger]. There were 22 blanket borers [Deckelecher], one of them with a son, in the entire guild together 4 menials. The number of fustian weavers amounted to 38, 2 menials were added to them. The rope makers had neither sons nor menials in the enterprise.51 The weaver workshops were small, the number of members in each single business was limited, and the production of commodities was similarly limited. The guild organization inhibited the development of the structuration and division of labour. The maintenance of the traditional organization of labour and its traditions stood in the foreground of their efforts. The “son” was not always or not necessarily the son of the family. We shall return to this question.

In the first centuries of the modern era weavers in Germany, England, France, the Netherlands and other countries in Europe maintained their customs, modes of labour and implements, with which they created cloth and rope. Their primary instrument of labour was the spinning wheel, and their traditional mode of labour was supported by the council and the authorities. Newer methods employed in the ←108 | 109→fabrication of commodities were considered harmful and were suppressed by officials and the guild system. The history of the introduction of new modes of labour in the cloth producing industry is instructive in this context. It has to do with the elimination of the old qualified labourers, their replacement by inexperienced youths, and the rationalization of the process of production, the sinking of wages through child labour and by the introduction of new tools such as ribbon looms, cord mills [Schnurmühle], and mill chairs [Mühlenstuhl].

The ribbon loom was introduced into Central Europe in the late 16th century. At that time, it had four to six webs, 16 to 18 gears, and it could be powered by a water wheel. The council at Iserlohn was concerned that this invention could turn a large number of labourers into beggars, and consequently their use in the production of cloth was prohibited. Possessors of the new tools of labour kept them secret in the majority of locations in Europe. In the 18th century the public mention of this instrument was avoided. It doesn’t appear in the Encyclopédie of Diderot and d’Alembert. This silence, however, is no proof that the French did not know of it; it only shows that knowledge of it was not published, spread and generalized. The Italian cleric D. Secondo Lancelotti from Perugia told the following story in 1636: A certain Anton Moller was supposed to have seen an artificial machine in the year 1579, which could complete at one time the work of four, six or more weavers. But since many poor men who were dependent on weaving would die of hunger through the introduction of such machines, the council prohibited its use and had the inventor suffocated (affogore, suffocated or drowned). Everything is third hand; no other source confirms this report. Anton Moller is unknown. Perhaps this story about that invention itself is only invented. Yet we can attest that towards the end of the 16th century in several cities of Europe there were these ribbon looms and other mechanical spinning wheels, and that the weaver guilds, the council and the town officials offered resistance to their introduction. In the sixties and seventies of the 17th century the ribbon loom was banned by the council in Nuremberg, Frankfurt am Main and Cologne. In 1681 it was banned in the entire empire. In 1719 some merchants complained to the Hofrat, yet the prohibition was renewed in Kursachsen in 1720. In 1728 the ribbon loom was acquired by the king. The receipt reads that since conditions had changed and in other provinces of the empire the prohibition had lapsed, so it was decided to confer upon the loop makers the freedom to publicly make use of the ribbon looms and cord mills [Band—and Schnurmühle].52

The history of the weavers’ guild is linked with the transition to the industrialization of cloth production, the expansion of domestic and world markets, the increasing influx of merchants and with the rising exploitation of labourers. The struggle over the maintenance of the stratum of qualified labour and the ←109 | 110→employment of unschooled children had changed the conditions and led to the employment of new machines. One can hardly speak of an industrial revolution here, but some steps in this direction were undertaken. Beckmann is an eyewitness, someone who introduced the events. His critical treatment of this history has been lost to memory. Later researchers have only repeated the history of the actual or fictional Anton Moller. However, the truth of the literature consists in the fact that the weavers, the council and authorities had set themselves in opposition to the employment of ribbon looms in the textile industry.53 By 1728 this new merchant class had much greater influence than previously. In this way they could relieve the guild masters and organizations of their role. In the late Middle Ages and in the first centuries of the modern era the maintenance of commercial stability was the top priority of the guild system in Central Europe. Its policing contribution to the internal peace of the city was duly recognized. There was an expectation that the medieval drinking/political societies would extinguish any conflagration. Each member of the guild was required to serve in the military, and this requirement the members of the guilds shared with the other burgesses. Their contribution to the maintenance of civil order by means of their policing function was fulfilled in general through the professional obligations of service. The guild system formed a corporate body like the village or town communities. In fact, this concerns a structuration of corporations, which had determined the internal and external life of the town. The exclusions, like the prohibitory system, the abolition of free competition or the limitation of it by the guilds, were criticized by several authors in the 19th and 20th century. The journeymen were repressed and exploited, the guild system as a whole was subjected to the town authorities, so that the assault into the sphere of freedom of the individual by the authorities came about.

There are two moments involved in this critique, one negative and another positive. The limitation of freedom, the regimentation of free competition and of free trade and the incursions into the freedom of the individual are to be judged negatively in the guild system and in civil (bourgeois) life from the standpoint of later epochs. There are objective proofs for the repression and exploitation of the fraternities and the association of apprentices. Yet the repression is relative, since the unfree peasants were desirous of the formal freedoms in the towns. The objective moment of the guild and apprentice organization served as a symbol and was taken over and given expression by other estates. The main theoreticians and ideologues of capitalism in the 18th and 19th century strove after free trade and free competition. The freedom of the working class in the capitalist system was positively valued and subjectively, ideologically, formally and objectively expressed. The formal freedom for the peasants, workers and tradesmen is linked to the improved conditions of labour and to rising profits. In the same way there was a connection ←110 | 111→between the freedom of the labourers and that of the capitalist entrepreneur. The freedom and equality of both sides in the negotiations and contracts over wages and the conditions of labour are dependent on one another. Under these conditions it concerns the expansion of formal freedom and equality in civil (bourgeois) society. The interest of the constitution of the guild was not related to the increase of revenue or of profit. In this sense it was not established capitalistically. The main emphasis of this guild constitution lay on the employment of the members of the guild, on the safeguarding of the estate and of the town, on the maintenance of the family enterprise and of the social welfare and the care of widows and orphans upon the death of the master, that is of the head of the family. The state dominated and regulated the journeymen organizations through the guild system. Guild, council and state oversaw the quality of the respective products and the fulfilment of agreements.

The number of guilds is not the main issue here. They can increase or decrease as a result of coincidence or external events of the estates-based life in the town. In fact, the number of independent trades in Frankfurt am Main decreased from 1554 in the year 1387 to 1207 in the year 1440. The guild organization of the town was able to continue, nevertheless. The same process of rise or fall in the numbers can also be tracked in the 16th and 17th century in Frankfurt, Cologne, Augsburg, Vienna and in smaller towns like Heidelberg.54

The Church took up these practices and efforts in the Middle Ages in the abstract idea of the just price. The just price did not exist, but rather expressed the wish for stable maintenance of prices, that is the wish for security in economic life. The guilds established and represented a constitution, which was concerned with the same security. The organizations of apprentices in part gave expression to the class struggle, in part they exerted themselves for the same goals as that of the Church and the guilds; guilds and journeymen organizations were regulated by the Church, the councils and the state. The constitution of the guild was criticized. Guild operations had little to do with rising profit, as little as with the rationalization of the labour process, which developed in the period of high capitalism. To be sure, these capitalist tendencies were also present already in the time of Fugger and Agricola, yet the guild system fought against them. The Romantic School in the 19th century expressed their disdain of the guild system in poetry through their inner connection to high capitalist ideology. Alongside of this, poetry praised just as much the old creations of handiwork and despised the mass products of the capitalist factories.

The regulation of the guild system by the council points to its historical development. In the 15th and 16th century the council enacted the guild system in Central Europe. The membership, the leadership of the guild, the length of labour ←111 | 112→time, wages, the recognition and withdrawal of the same from the guilds and associations, the number of enterprises and the number of apprentices and journeymen in an enterprise, the extension of the precincts, the prohibitory system, the quality and even the quantity of the products of the guilds were so regulated. In the second half of the 17th century—in connection with the rise of the absolutist state—the authorities repeatedly took over the regulation of the guilds. The King of Saxony was eo ipso a member of the guild system. In Braunschweig the head of state enacted the constitution of the offices and of the guilds [Gilden]. In Brandenburg, the Grand Elector Friedrich Wilhelm had initially decided to cancel the guild system, and after that, to maintain it, yet with a changed constitution. Morning assemblies and the jurisdiction of the guilds and associations were limited, the economic customs and misuses, like price fixing, falsification of material and not carrying out of orders, were dominated by royal decree, punished or threatened with fines.55 Whether the new regimen of the guild in fact changed something concretely is an open question. However, the new enactments of the guilds reveal a strengthening of state power and the immediate regulation of economic life through the instances mentioned above. The new governance of the guild reveals a centralization of state power in the second half of the 17th and over the course of the 18th century, which was bound up with the formation of the national state in Germany and in Central Europe.

The guilds [Zünfte] and Gilden, the associations of journeymen and the communal organizations, were, as we have seen, corporate bodies. They survived the admission, the participation and the withdrawal of individual members of the corporation. The guild was responsible for the behaviour of the individual guild member and for the membership as a whole: hence in Braunschweig, for example, for the relationship to the council and to the state. The guild had an internal governance which was administered through the general regulation of the council. The guild system was a richly structured organism of handcraftsmanship, and it had maintained the customs of the old communes. Some of them, such as the goldsmiths of Frankfurt am Main, referred to themselves as a brotherhood or fraternity (fraternitas, confratria). This guild constitution continued in a weakened form into the 19th century, and the weakening in comparison to the high point in the development of the guild which had been attained in the 14th/15th century, is related to the number of guilds, the number of members and the juridical compulsion of the guild, which dominated the labour process in the 15th century.56 The further development of capitalism through the expanded liberation of wage labour, of commerce, of the market and of manufacture, was directed against the guild system of the past. The dispute over free trade with the state system belongs to this past as well.

←112 | 113→

Through the councils, patricians and the wealthy families controlled town life in Central Europe in the period from the 15th to the 17th century; the Grand Electors dominated the empire, the towns and the guilds through the Reichstag. The Catholic Church which had a powerful hand in this period prior to the Reformation, was weakened by Lutheranism and Calvinism. When the secular dynasties had lost and squandered their money through war, the early capitalist families were ruined. The following period is that of mercantilism-cameralism.57 The men of state had discovered how the merchants could serve state politics; it was not the main intention of the state to increase private capital. The capitalists were powerful enough in the 19th century, to take the state into their service; in the previous period they were not.

The generation of commodities in the 15th and 16th century was mainly carried out in small enterprises. The producing units in the town were above all the workshops for metal processing as well as for the production of cloth, leather goods, foodstuffs, means of construction and of transportation. Domestic labour was plied in a smaller unit of production than that of the workshop. The number of trades, apprentices and masters, who worked together in the workshop, was delimited by the limited accumulation of capital, by traditional practices and through the legislation of the council and of the guilds. As we have seen, the council had determined the magnitude of the enterprise—that is, how many labourers may work in the single enterprise—according to each trade in the town. Their determinations, through the edicts and decisions, had an effect not only on the quantitative size and productive extent of the enterprise, but also on the accumulation of capital, the use of the means of production and on the structuration and division of labour in the process of production and distribution.

Professions in the guild system were passed from father to son. In the year 1387 114 trades were counted in Frankfurt am Main with a total of 350 trade plying masters, 47 sons of masters and 9 servants. The son could be the biological son, or a person recognized as a fictive son by the guild and council. In the year 1440 the number of independent gainfully employed Frankfurt masters reached 1,498, that of the masters’ sons 77 and that of the servants 38. In spite of striving for social stability, the number of professions did not remain unchanged. There were in Frankfurt in 1384 148 types of occupations, in the year 1440 the number increased to 191. The numbers are valid for the following branches of the trades: metal processing, heating and lighting fuel, textile and leather trades, wood and horn processing trades, trades involved in preparing foodstuffs, trades of clothing, cleaning and construction.58 The number of masters’ sons and servants rose in the 15th century, and so the guild system was strengthened.

←113 | 114→

In 1588 in Heidelberg there were 139 men, 27 servants, 130 women and 28 maids in primary production (vintners, fishers, millers, construction workers, gardeners); in the trades (metalwork, textile trades, leather and hemp trades, wood processing, food processing, clothing and construction trades) there were 450 men, 334 servants, 412 women and 172 maids.59 The workshops were exceedingly small, as small as were the towns at that time in comparison to the cities in the epoch of high capitalism. In comparison to the workshops and ergasteries in Athens and classical Rome as well, in which 30 or 100 or even 500 slaves worked together, the town enterprises in Central Europe were small; the number of those employed in foundations and cloisters in the period from the 15th to the 17th century was varied. This not only had to do with the number working together in the enterprises but, above all with the structure of labour, with the qualification of the labourers, their technical prowess, their wages, the total capital, the workshop including their heating and lighting, the creation and outfitting of the enterprise as well as the instruments of labour and other means of production of the same. In comparison to the workshops and ergasteries of antiquity, the workshops of the early-modern period could produce more with a smaller workforce. The productivity and the structuration of labour rose, the rationalization in the labour process, technology, planning, the market economy and capital did as well. These indications of progress are especially noticeable in mining; Agricola, Biringuccio among others, as we shall see, made telling observations in relation to it.

Schoenlank described the opposition between the poorer and wealthier handicraft masters of Nuremberg in the 16th century. The poor masters sought work in the home to earn their daily bread, but that was prohibited by the council. The ring makers of Nuremberg, a branch of brass smithing, who finished brass rings for curtains, horse bridles, and the like, were prohibited by the council, from working for another Nuremberg master. Lodging with another master was also forbidden. Impoverished masters were forbidden with a penalty of five pounds of new hellers, to work in place of a journeyman. The declassé masters were no small obstacle in the way of industrialization of the town and for the development of the movement of journeymen. On the other hand, the Nuremberg merchants advanced the development of house industries, and the rich masters fought against the small ones. The council tried to prevent the masters of means from employing the poorer masters in cottage industries. In this way, the council could itself determine and limit productivity in the process of production. Hence, on March 4, 1542, the council ordered that among the smiths producing augurs, gimlets, piercers or borers, no master shall give any kind of employment of completing or carrying out labour to another of his fellow masters under penalty of two pounds new heller.60

←114 | 115→

There was no separation of creation and sale of the product envisaged in the guild system. Those who produced sold their product as a commodity in their stores. This can be graphically seen in the different town guilds in the Ständebuch from Hans Sachs and Jost Ammon; the handcraftsman working in his workshop, which also served as his commodity store, together with his wife or his journeymen and apprentices (see the drawings from the Ständebuch).61

The bitter struggle of the guild in England, the Netherlands, France and Germany against the introduction of new tools and methods of labour continued over the course of the 16th and 17th century. As mentioned, the inventor of the stocking frame had to flee England. Similar stories are known from the Netherlands and France. The struggle for the guilds was temporarily successful and as a consequence led to the prohibition on the employment of newer tools and the organization of labour bound up with it.62 The guild system engaged in sharp opposition to the rationalization and the increase of productivity in the labour process (see above).

The miners’ association [Knappschaft] was in its origins an independent association of labourers, who had much in common with the other guilds. In the 15th and 16th century the miners’ guilds, the metallurgists (Hüttenwerker) and smelters (Schmelzer) were organized into fraternities, distinct from one another. In Saxony the territorial prince was integrated pro forma into the professional association; the mining administration kept the miners’ association under its control.63

The workshops in Nuremberg around 1300 tried to keep the economy within specific limits by means of the law. It was thus so ordered in that period: “No master, or no workshop shall transfer to smiths other than his own workshop with the three servants and the Bolzenreicher [Person who hands over bolts to the carpenter. Found only in Sombart Der Geist des Kapitalismus]. No one shall lend or give money for it; neither shall one take money for it from townsfolk or from strangers. Whosoever violates these rules must pay a fine of one of four hellers [den vierten Heller].”64

The guild organization in its provenance appeared in history as the result of the structuration of working life, of the separation of town and countryside, as well as the spheres of production strictly separated and closed off from one another. This result was formed by the pressure of the guild, with the limitations of production, with the exclusion of free competition, with self-administration, exclusive jurisdiction, and the freedom of the trades.65

The laws of the guild organization were identified with the actual practice of the same, which in a later era appears to be inexact and exaggerated. Some masters and journeymen belonged to several organizations. The organization of enterprises differed from one town to another. The guild organizations of the enterprises were ←115 | 116→not the same in all cases. In Frankfurt am Main some enterprises ceased to exist between the 14th and 15th century; the creation of necessary commodities for daily use was replaced by other enterprises: pan smith [Pfannenschmied] which appears on the list of trades from 1387, is not represented in the list from 1440. In 1552 the number of masters in Frankfurt amounted to 777, the number without guilds were 228,66 77.3% guild masters, and 22.7% without guilds.

Through the domestic transformations of the labour process in Central Europe the guild organization was changed. In part they could adapt to the new systems of production and enterprise, in part not. To the new processes of the 17th century and thereafter the old modes of labour had to yield. W. Stieda emphasized the general and internal conditions. Manufacture and the organization of the factory to a large extent replaced the workshop and practices of cottage labour. Free movement expanded among broad strata of agricultural labour. Schoenlank added an external factor:67 The Thirty Years’ War destroyed the power position of Nuremberg; general economic decline led to the fall of handicrafts. Nuremberg did not stand alone in Central Europe.

The view that the Middle Ages was a period of civil peace and the class struggles began in the modern era, is frequently propagated. These conceptions were already expressed by Janssen and Pareto. O. Johannsen shares this opinion when he auspiciously writes: “the old patriarchal relation among masters and their people disappeared in the first epochs of the modern period. The first signs of the class struggles made their existence known.”68 B. Schoenlank and G. Schanz voiced something similar regarding medieval manual labour: “So long as the relation of servitude and authority in which the labourers found themselves was only a time limited transition and point of access to independence of the masters, the condition of the patriarchal character remained in effect.”69 Endres pointed to another, perhaps unknown fact at that time. Class struggles showed themselves already in the Middle Ages: an uprising of Nuremberg craftsmen took place in 1348/49 and again in 1355 as has already been discussed. Since then the craftsmen were strictly subordinated to the patrician council.70 We don’t limit ourselves to these single cases. We mentioned above the dispute between O. Brunner on the one hand, Reininghaus and Elkar on the other, concerning the meaning of the concept “the entire house.” The class struggle does not begin with modernity; it was spread over the class relations of the Middle Ages as well as of modern civil (bourgeois) society. This is not about isolated facts, also not about a matter of style. Recent research shows itself to be more sensitive in relation to the fate of the poor, of the suppressed and exploited and in relation to their class interests, expressions and struggles. We have already noted a comparative treatment of the history of the peasant wars by G. Franz.

←116 | 117→

The private sphere in the social life of Central Europe in the period of transition to modernity has shown itself as active and stronger in practice in comparison to the Middle Ages; this is related both to the parts as well as to the whole. The peasants and labourers in the countryside, the town proletariat and the capitalist entrepreneurs express their opposing interests; the dispute between the private estates on the one hand and the public sphere of the state together with the nobility and the Church on the other was sharpened in France;71 in Germany, however, this was not or not so much the case …. An accord between the middle class and the autocracy was introduced in England, the Netherlands and Germany in the 17th and 18th century; the agreement was not signed, yet the two classes could live together.

The relations of production and the system of distribution, exchange and circulation of money took devious paths and have—according to later opinions—even taken false steps. Detours were the guild system, the organization of the Hansa, the so-called Fuggerei and the system of putting out, whose old forms were revolutionized during the 17th century. The research of von Kriegk, Schoenlank, Stieda and Kulischer, Endres and Reininghaus have shown that the guild master and the council inhibited the organizations of journeymen in the 15th and 16th century. As a result, the latter lost their initiative. Manufacture and the mechanization of the factory system transformed the world of high capitalism. In general terms, wage labour, credit, commodity and market processes advanced from the late Middle Ages into the beginning of modernity. Thus, we observe discontinuities in the process of elaboration and continuities which continue forward through the interruptions.

Kulischer in his influential work put together the system of putting out with cottage industry, the class of small masters and home labour and all forms tied to the guild system.72 The putting-out system came to Central Europe from the region of the Mediterranean and from Northwestern Europe in the late Middle Ages. It was really not a unified system. The enterpriser of the putting out workshop [Verleger] was a trader or merchant, who advanced money to the craftsman. The advance was in some cases an occasional matter, in others it occurred on a regular basis. The merchants were sometimes united with the craftsmen in the same guild, but under other circumstances they were not. The putting-out system was important for the production of fustian and the creation of linen in Central Europe. No new forms of the system of commercial enterprise were established, but new marketing negotiations were carried out, whereby the old enterprises founded on handwork remained unchanged.73 The renewal initiative arose on the side of the entrepreneurs, who sought profit, and not on the side of the craftsmen.

←117 | 118→

The putting-out system was expanded after the development of the printing industry with regard to the production of books, brochures, proclamations, leaflets, advertisements, calendars and toys. The enterpriser in this putting-out system had advanced the printer a sum of money in this case. The Frankfurt printer Georg Raben printed the work Die eigentliche Beschreibung aller Stände 1568 for the publisher Sigmund Feyerabend. The collaboration of the poet Hans Sachs and of the best-selling illustrator Jost Amman was arranged by the enterpriser. The same publisher had also in the year 1568 published in conjunction with the printer G. Corvin the edition of the work in the Latin language with the title: Πανοπλια omnium illiberalium mechanicarum aut sedenterarium atrium genera (Overview of all illiberal, mechanical or settled arts).

The Πανοπλια contains roughly the same images by Jost Amman as the Ständebuch. The text was composed by Hartmann Schapper. In 1574 the same Frankfurt publisher had a new edition of the book printed by a third printer under the title: De Omnibus Illiberalibus sive Mechanicis Artibus with the same text and the same wood cuts.74 Feyerabend’s publishing activity is related to contracts with three printers, two authors and the one artist. The publisher also wrote a preface in which he celebrated the printing enterprise of Hans Kuttenbergers (Johann Gutenberg) from Mainz.

The typesetters conducted a workshop separated from that of book printing. In the Ständebuch he worked alone, “poured the writing at the printers / made from bismuth, tin and lead.” Thus, he could work by contract for several book printers. The book printer organized the letters; two journeymen in one workshop set them together and made words from them; the master worked with the press, his servant jerked the cudgel, and in this way printed a sheet of paper. “Thereby some of the arts came to the light of day. The art of book printing was first plied at Mainz. The bookbinder binds all kinds of books in parchment or boards. He mounts it with a good enclosure and buckles and stamps it for decoration. Some are embossed with gold letters for he makes much money with it.”75 (See images)

The publisher had expended the money for the book and received a profit from the enterprise. Feyerabend had taken over the developed Gothic type from the Augsburger, Johann Schönsperger, and from the Nurembergers, Johann Neudörffer and Hieronymous Andreae. He had begun as a type founder and a book adorner in Augsburg and in Mainz, then travelled to Venice, returned to Frankfurt and founded his publishing house in 1560. He had established ties not only with Jost Amman, but also with V. Solis among others, who prepared the wood blocks and book images for his books. Their role in the spreading of the arts and of the sciences was known to the book industrialist.76

←118 | 119→

Calendars, books, toys, indulgences in the realm of the Church and printing in the commercial world were the creations of book publishing. Each copy in the same edition is like all the others. The reliability of the copies was assured in this case, which was important for contracts. Both sides could be assured, that the spelling and misspelling are the same and that the mistakes of copiers could normally be eliminated.

The virtues of the high capitalist process of production are already present in the early book enterprises. Control over the quality of the identical published copies, of the time saving through the speed of dissemination of copies and the mechanization of the industrial process are the early achievements of the book and print publishers. The dissemination therewith of writing, the development of the public system of education and the modernization of the process of information are bound up with the print shops and with the system of book publishing.

The putting-out system was not plied in a uniform but rather in a differentiated fashion, according to the branch of industry. The ways and means of how the process of labour was structured, constituted the great contradiction between the putting-out system in the print shop and in the production of needles. In the latter there were several products created as commodities and sold by independent craftsmen, in the former, only one commodity was sold by the putting out enterpriser, who controlled the entire distribution process.

The poet sold his poetry, the form cutter his wood cuts, the printer his books, to the publisher. Poems, wood cuts and books are commodities, which are not distributed in the process of production, but rather are bought and sold. The book is supplied in the publishing house and is demanded by the buyers. The printer has purchased the paper, the ink, the letters and the book bindings as commodities from their producers. The type founder purchased metal, bismuth, tin and lead for the letter foundry from the smelter; he has refined the metal in his furnace and ordered the letters. Inside the book printer’s workshop, the ink, paper and letters are not sold but distributed; they are not commodities in the process of distribution but rather parts of the process of production.

The iron wire is sold to the merchant-entrepreneur issuer of needles; in this case the wire is a commodity. However, the issuer distributes the sharpened filament; the domestic labourer receives it from the issuer not as a commodity, but rather as means of production in the process of refinement. The pledge of the sharpened filament is a transitional form in trade. The domestic worker is dependent on the issuer and cannot move freely; he receives the material for finishing, and it is pledged against a sum of money. The issuer is the only one who plies this trade with the iron wire as an advance against the pledge. The craftsmen have only one trader to whom the product is sold or supplied and one single supplier of iron ←119 | 120→wire. The iron wire in the production of needles is not a commodity under these conditions; only the final products are commodities.

The historical relation between the workshop labour and domestic labour was explained by G. Schanz using the example of the Swabian needle industry.77 The expansion of sales led to the domestic industry. For now the pin and sewing needles could no longer be sold at the same location by the artisans. It had to occur to the issuers to whom the needle workers transferred the commodity and who assumed the enterprise of needle-making at his risk. The issuer was the one who completed the needle-making. The half-completed needles were supplied to him and the last processes of hardening, of activation and release, of polishing, of sorting and packing of the needles fell to him. The masters in the end were reduced to purely domestic labour. They received from the issuer the sharpened wire for refinement.78 In one variant of the same system the issuer offered the artisan for his use money, material or both as security against the pledge. The craftsmen maintained the tools in the production process as their property; the merchants had offered money in advance of the products and in all cases only they sold the products.

The putting-out system is based on the trade, commodity, market and money relations of the late Middle Ages. The possibilities for its expansion were partially actualized. The guild system, on the contrary, with its lower level of productive forces in the period of high capitalism and monopoly set itself in opposition to the development of these productive forces.

The guild system in the Middle Ages became a system of structuration of labour in the creation of cloth in the towns, in the processing of metal, glass, leather and wood as well as in trade with their products. In the first centuries of the modern period the guild organization of the town enterprises were continued and increased. This increase and the specialization in the labour process of the guild and guild organizations which arose along with it reinforced the demarcation between the different guilds, prevented their working together, led to the elimination of outsiders in the same branch of enterprise and supported monopolistic and privileged tendencies in production and in trade.79

The issuers in Straßburg introduced the so-called truck system. That was the practice of the issuer to recompense their workers for a portion of their past labour through the promise of new work.80 This practice signified a possibility for increased profit for the merchants; for the workers it meant lower wages. The putting-out system, which could avoid this conduct, was continued in the printing industry.

The guild and putting-out system had developed comparative customs and practices. They did not form a unified system, yet they were shaped by practices of resistance to the expansion of the capitalist system. They tried to regulate profit, the ←120 | 121→accumulation of capital, the structuring of labour, the magnitude of enterprise and technical innovations and whenever possible, to contain them, at first with success; but in the end their world disappeared. The guilds and putting-out workshops [Verlage] in the 15th and 16th century reacted defensively to the achievements of the modern period in the organization, structuration and division of labour and in the training of the labourer, to the introduction of new technology and in the accumulation of capital. The activities of the guild and the putting-out system were often condemned from the standpoint of the period of high capitalism and convenient quotes from the contemporary sources were sought out in order to awaken among today’s readers the impression of the narrow-mindedness of the past guilds and merchant entrepreneurs in the putting-out system [Verleger].

Some guilds in Central Europe continued into the 19th century. In the 17th century the authorities were undecided whether they should repress the guild system or tolerate its continuing existence. In Brandenburg, Braunschweig and in other parts of Germany the officials discovered, that they could control the workers’ movement to a certain extent through the guild organizations which on their part kept the journeymen, masters and apprentices under control.

The medieval guilds [Gilden] had various tasks: the structuration and division of the social labour of production and distribution of commodities; the enforcement and maintenance of the monopoly of exchange and market processes; the securing of civil peace; and the undertaking of the welfare of its membership. These tasks are bound up with a determinate social condition of the past. Thus, the guild system was negatively assessed with the rationale that it prevented progress in the process of production. Other social organs assumed the securing of the peace of the towns and so on. The social practice in the period of high capitalism can also be negatively judged. The ideologues and representatives of this period were little concerned with the welfare and social assistance of the poor; their main interest was the increase in productivity and profit, in the rationalization in manufacturing commodities and the increase in turnover. The views of the old guilds [Gilden] and of the council can be positively judged: they saw that the new practices of labour, machines and capital accumulation, would lead to unemployment, child labour and the immiseration of the population. On the contrary, the bad practice of the monopoly of trade, which was developed in the old guild system, continued in contemporary trade practices. The condemnation of the guild system, which was practiced in the 19th century, appears to be a one-sided type of treatment of its historical process. Currently there is an effort to assess the tasks of the guilds in a more balanced fashion.

←121 | 122→

3.5 Merchants, Trade and Calculating Skills [Rechenkunst]

3.5.1 Arithmetic, Calculating Skills

The merchant class in modern times had a close relationship to the exact calculation of money, to the measure of commodities, such as ore or cloth, to that of time, of space, and of human skilfulness and animal capability, taking cognizance of them and developing them further.

In order to solve the problems of the economy and merchant class, a few advances in arithmetic were made in the period from the 15th to the 17th century. These advances were founded on contacts of the Europeans in the region of the Mediterranean, on contacts with the Near East, especially in Italy, and beyond that to India. At the same time the arithmeticians and geometers opened the entrance to the classical books of Euclid and in part to those of Archimedes. The merchants of this period could do two things: to reckon with the abacus on lines with pennies as well as with the system of numeration and multiplication tables. It came to a contest between the two arts of reckoning, which the system of numeration won early in Central Europe. In other countries, such as in Russia, China and Japan, it was reckoned with the reckoning table or the abacus into the 20th century. In 1522 Adam Ries published a book with the title Rechnung auff der linien und federn in zol, mass und gewicht [Reckoning on lines and springs in inches, mass and weight]. The corrected edition of the book with the title: Rechenbuch auff Linien und Ziphern in allerley Handthierung Geschäften und Kauffmannschafft [Arithmetic book on lines and numbers in various handling businesses [Handthierung] and merchandizing] appeared in 1574. A woodcut of an unknown master with the drawing of the arts of arithmetic and of measuring and determining the content of barrels was copied on the title page. Two men are sitting at a table, the one reckoning with numbers and a feather pen, the other on lines with reckoning pennies; a third stands in front of the table and is thinking, perhaps as a referee judging the outcome. On the right in the same illustration are two men occupied with the examination or inspection of barrels to determine their measurements [Visierung] (see illustration).81

Achievements in the art of reckoning with numbers which originated in Italy were notable. Instruction in the use of numbers in the Rechenbuch point to the fact that the number zero reached Central Europe from India through the Arabs and Persians;82 arithmetic and the significance of numbers and the decimal system were introduced into northern Europe.83

The method of Ciriacus Schreittmann is scientific, objective, systematic and palpable. It is not only related to the introduction of the decimal system. Adam ←122 | 123→Ries stood in the middle of a development which was useful to the merchant class, and in the title of his book the application of arithmetic in business practices is prefigured. The many objectives of the work composed by Erhart Helm were the calculation of profit, of weight, of the rate of exchange, of the shipping of crucibles of coin templates, of loan-sharking, of engravings, and of the examination and inspection [Visierung] of barrels; it appears as an appendix to Adam Ries’ book.

In 1470 the Indo-Arabian numerals appeared in Augsburg. Prior to that Roman numerals were written down, but not used for arithmetic. Hence, reckoning tables and reckoning pennies were employed. In 1202 Leonardo Pisano had propagated the number system in his book Liber abaci, in which the significance of numbers and zero as a cipher was expressed. Johann Widmann published the book Rechnung auff allen Kauffmanschafft [Arithmetic for all Mercantile Communities], in which the plus and minus signs were represented. The intended readership for his book is indicated in the book’s title.

Trade between Venice, Genoa, Pisa and the Near East from Syria to Algeria was developed into a regular phenomenon. This had to do with the exchange of wood, wool, and cloth against silk, spices, jewels. Bookkeeping expanded over Lucca, Siena, Pisa, Florence, Genoa and Venice. In the same cultural-historical context the work of the counting board appeared, written by Leonardo, son of a family from Pisa in the year 1202.84 Only later were calculations made with numbers and multipliers. With both systems the rate of exchange and of commodity trade with money prices or various coin values could be calculated quickly such as with Florentine, Venetian, Pisan, Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Augsburg or Hanseatic coins, and further with lot, heller, pennies, gulden, schillings, ducats, florins, pieces, blots, kreuzers and albus. In this way the difference, the remainder or percentage could be calculated. The transfer of commodity purchase and sale, the recording of exchange on account, commodity exchange or take was calculable. Quantitative losses in traffic or transport with regard to exchange, that is, fares and impurities of commodities [tara and fusti] could be ascertained and time as well, turnover or Sald und Tumin could be calculated. And the calculation of rent and leases, negotiations with various participants in business or corporation, wage and salary calculation and likewise in calculations in chemistry, in mining and in assaying, as well as in the calculation of allocation and alloying could be executed. The creation of feather pens and ink (also derived from calamari, octopus), paper, papers for business and books, things of contemporary office supplies, had undergone a brisk internal development. The Nuremberg calculating table was necessary for the abacus [Rechenbrett, Rechentafel].

In the 15th century the Italian mathematician and merchant Leonardo of Pisa (Pisano, aka Fibonacci) brought out a simplified system of signs and calculation ←123 | 124→that was spread widely across Europe. The links between the merchant class and mathematical science were close-knit and deep, in accordance with the traffic between Central Europe and the Mediterranean. At first the direction of development of the two fields of trade went from south to the north. Regiomontan studied Greek mathematical science with Cardinal Bessarian in Rome and he published his Greek texts in Nuremberg from 1474. Pacioli defined exchange as follows: Exchange is nothing other than replacing [stechen] (commutare) one commodity with another with the idea of improving one’s condition.

Michael Stifel (Stiefel), Apian (Bennewitz or Bienewitz), Christoph Rudolff, Heinrich Schriber (Grammateus), Adam Ries and Wolfgang Schwieker published books concering merchant matters and the art of arithmetic/calculation [Rechenkunstbücher]. Grammateus composed the work Buchhalter durch Zornalkaps und Schuldtbuch auff alle Kaufmannschafft, ayn new kunstlich buech welches gar gewiss und behend lernet (…) notürfftig Rechnung auff Kaufmanschafft …, Nuremberg, (s.d.), Vorrede Wien 1578. Wolfgang Schweicker composed Zwifach Buchhalter sampt seine Giornal desselben Beschlus auch Rechnung zuthun 1549.85

Out of economic and scientific intercourse double-entry bookkeeping arose and was made available. Those like Werner Sombart who have designated double-entry bookkeeping as the foundation of the capitalist era, had a narrow viewpoint, overlooking in general the extensive intercourse and the system of merchant practices (arithmetic, measurement of barrels, exchange of commodities) with geometry and mathematics. Central Europe had developed a connection with Italy, as the Store House or Establishment of the Germans (Fondaco dei Tedeschi) in Venice shows. The Italians had their link to the merchant practices and the artists and scientists of the Near East. The Arabs on their part, had intercourse with the Persians and Indians. There was no hard and fast line of distinction drawn between merchant affairs, arithmetic and mathematics. Arithmetic was in this sense not run in a guild-like fashion. Teachers, scribes, mathematicians and merchants had retrieved their common endeavour from antiquity as well as from the contemporary Mediterranean region in the 15th and 16th century, further from Asia, hence ex oriente lux. Jakob Köbel, the town scribe of Oppenheym, had composed Das new Rechenpüchlein wie mann uff den Linien und Spacien mit Rechenpfenningen Kaufmannschafft und tegliche Handelungen leichtlich rechen lernen mag 1518 (corrected for the third time and printed in Oppenheym). The same scribe published in 1535 a Geometrie, von künstlichem Messen und Absehen allerhand Höhe, Fleche, Ebene, Weite und Breyte, als Thürn, Kirchen, Baw, Baum, Velder, und Äcker (…) mit künstlich Jacob Stab86, philosophischen Spiegel, Schatten und Messruten.

The lines, spaces and reckoning pennies point to the preparations and practices with the abacus. Köbel at this juncture had not yet introduced the numeral system. ←124 | 125→In later proceedings he brought out a book of arithmetic with lines and numbers in 1544, in which he gave instruction in the measurement of barrels [Visierung], the weight of coinage, the measure in ells of all mercantile commodities. It is thus to be inferred that the new art of arithmetic with numerals was extended. Adam Ries, as we have already seen, broadened the calculation with numbers of Indo-Arabian provenance in 1522. In his book he had taught lines (abacus) and numerals, or the art of numeration. In 1526 Christoph Rudolff published his Kunstliche Rechnung mit der Ziffer und mit den Zahlpfennigen in Vienna.87 Books of arithmetic were prepared for girls as well as for boys.

More influential were the works on the coss or unknown variables by Christoph Rudolff, Michael Stifel and Adam Ries. The word coss is of Italian provenance (coso) and was in this sense applied to algebra. It was especially related to calculation with unknowns. Cosa, thing, as a concept comes from the Arabic sai, thing. Adam Ries published a book, Die Coss in 1524. In 1494 Luca Pacioli had written about the cosa or unknown in his Summa de Arithmetica.; today it is designated with an “x”. Calculation with the abacus harkens back to the Italian masters of the abacus, of which the most talented was Leonardo of Pisa. Calculations in general with the abacus as with the (Indo-Arabian) numerals, were called by some people Venetian arithmetic; “die brauchen die Kaufleut zu mal gern” [the merchants need this only too gladly], as it reads in a written document from Munich in 1480. The mediators of arithmetic from antiquity and from Asia were the Arabs and Jews in the 12th, 13th, and 14th century.88

A number of words in the German world of the German merchant class and the commercial practices of the early-modern period are traced back to the Italian language. Agio, Bilanz, Brutto, Debit(o), Diskant, Giro, Kasse, kassieren, Kassierer, Konto, Kredit, Lombard, Manko, Netto, Numero, Obligo, Posten, Rabatt, Renditen, Rest, Risiko, Saldo, Sporko, Strazze, Syndikat are borrowings of this sort. Conversely, words such as Banco (=bank) are borrowed from German vocabulary by the Italian and return to the German from there. That Risiko and Syndikat furthermore are traced back to the Greek is also known. Words such as Depositär, Kommanditär, Indossament, Protest, Rimesse, Traitta, skontieren, Komturei, Faktor, Faktorei, have their connection to Italian commercial usage and vocabulary. The florin survives in the coin symbol FL, fl., mediately from Florence.89

Words like Kosten, Pfennig, Preis and Sold, which originate immediately from the Latin or from vulgar Latin of the Middle Ages have another history. The etymology of Risiko is contested. The word is borrowed from the Greek, but it is related to modern Greek and has the meaning here of foot of a mountain or cliff. This is a source of danger for the mariner, but this connection is a supposition.

←125 | 126→

Risk can also be traced back to rhizo in classical Greek, the root of an herb. Rebate supposedly stands in a metathetic relation to baratto, cheap, well-priced. Two etymologies are suggested for penny [Pfennig]. The one leads back to the Latin pannus, piece, cloth, rag, with the justification that cloth served as units of money in antiquity. The other leads back to Latin pandus, weight, that which is weighed, gold coinage. Collateral [Pfand] and pound are linked to both etymologies. Reckoning pennies appear to be more closely linked with weight than with cloth. Further derivations of these roots in today’s linguistic usage are post, position, pendulum and suspend.

“Reckoning board” is the translation of the Italian abaco, abacus in Latin, which is traced back to abaq, Hebrew אבק: dust, אבקה powder. The board was originally covered with powder upon which the numbers were drawn.90 Archimedes composed a book Psammites (Sand Calculator). His famous portrait shows the mathematician in front of his reckoning board.

The accomplishments of Fibonacci, Pacioli, Meister Dardi of Pisa, Cardano, G. Peurbach and Regiomontan made possible the transition to the algebra of L. Euler, C.F. Gauss and E. Galois. Together these people of the early-modern period built the foundation for the merchant class, commodity exchange or Stich in the domestic market and in world trade of the capitalist era. Adam Ries, Chr. Rudolff, M. Stifel, Apianus, Stevin, Widmann and Köbel contributed to this foundation in Central Europe.

Risk in business, in merchandising and in the enterprise was assumed; one expected it and it was calculated. Risk was connected with the investment of money and capital. One advanced and risked capital for possible profit, or went bankrupt, bust, for the greater the risk, the greater the profit or loss. In opposition to this thought and the hope and anxiety associated with it, stood the practice and theory of the medieval iustum pretium, of the just price91, along with which the risk of trade and the exchange of commodities was supposed to be lessened or overcome. The lessening or overcoming of the risk im Stich [precarious] was considered in relation to the just price from the standpoint of the Church. Whether commerce was carried on that way in fact remains an open question, which is left to the medievalists. Risk was at that time considerable in another relation. The cooperatives [Genossenschaften] in the Middle Ages and in the modern era were partly composed of traders. They were in fact adventurers, who had risked their goods on long trips. They had conducted distant trade with locally produced commodities, like amber, metals, leather, herring or cloth with the East, the region of the Mediterranean and Scandinavia, England and Russia.

The worldview of merchants and traders was shaped through their Italian relationships not only by word, but also through practices like bookkeeping. Matthäus ←126 | 127→Schwarz represented the Fugger interests in Venice in the early 16th century. Thus, he mastered bookkeeping and regarding balance wrote: “The debt book is compared to a scale, that the Italians call bilanza.” The balance [in bookkeeping] according to his practice looks like the mechanical instrument [to measure weight]. We shall return to the mechanization of worldview in the early-modern era.92 The Pagament or copper-bearing silver did not come from Italy, only the word for it did; a word that also signifies coinage silver, since this material contains copper among other elements.93 It is to be assumed that kaputt refers back to caput, the front part of a ship, and has a word history which is mediately tied up with risk, cliff or the foot of a mountain. (see above).94

3.5.2 Merchants and Trade

We have considered the relationship between the new arithmetic and the merchant world. In several studies by Ehrenberg, Strieder, von Below, Brentano, Max Weber, Sombart and also in the overview of the theories by Schumpeter, the main emphasis of the historical dynamic in the transitional process from the feudal to the modern bourgeois period was put upon the practices of the class of entrepreneurs, of mercantile capitalism and of the merchant class. Marx, on the other hand, emphasized the role of the physical movement of peasants in this transitional process. The movement of peasants from the countryside into the town and later back again to the countryside, the liberation movement of the peasants, the associations of journeymen and the miners’ associations point to their historical dynamic in the transformation of feudal society and in the formation of the new. We have pointed to the contribution of the liberation movement of the peasants to the transformation of the old society in outline and directed attention to the struggles and uprisings of the associations of journeymen. The two movements each deserve a special study for themselves in understanding the upheaval of the feudal and the construction of the capitalist society. The period of transition from the 15th to the 17th century only appeared as such considered from the standpoint of the later, especially of contemporary society. People of the early-modern era like Fugger, Dürer or Luther had not considered themselves as premature or transitional people. They were not a road, a way or a means, and they did not understand themselves as such.

The new society had formed an economic and social system. From the standpoint of later epochs, it would seem that the earlier bears in itself some characteristic features of the feudal and some of the following capitalist period.

Some characteristic features like the guild system in the legal sense, corvée and forced collective labour ceased to exist. Some types of enterprise like the Hansa ←127 | 128→and the Patrician or family council in the town disappeared or were transformed. The main problem of this section of our study is the role of the entrepreneurs; we consider them as an aspect of the then contemporary society and economic system and assess their role in the transition to modern bourgeois society.

The business venture appears in the Middle Ages in connection with pilgrimage, in modern times with the investment of capital; in the 17th century the enterprise of the Pegnitzschäferei [literally of Pegnitz sheep tending – a reference to a group in Nuremberg organized to monitor German language usage–trans.] was mentioned.95

Tied to the business enterprise were: the economic processes of the circulation of money, of wage labour in the factory, the commodity as an outcome of commercial trips and of production by wage labour in the factory, and further, the exchange of commodities in the market, the advance of money to meet the demands of enterprise, wages and land rent, and of credit and debts. Risk, profit and the price of commodities stood in the foreground of the business venture, as we can learn from the words of Martin Luther, Adam Ries and William Shakespeare. The calculation of profit is linked with that of loss or the annulment of both. The arts of writing and arithmetic are so employed that they led to reportage. Writers and calculators are essential components of business enterprises, whether in the person or in the function of the entrepreneur or the enterprise. The new system of education, the art of writing and book printing are the results of these processes in modern times. We have seen that the calculation of credit and debts interconnects with the art of arithmetic and with the rise of bookkeeping out of it.

Perhaps equally important, if not more so, is the concept of the company [Gesellschaft] and connected with it that of the associate or partner, shareholder, member of a partnership. These are legal persons in an enterprise who are participants in the ventures. They are possessors of money who risk their credit in an enterprise mediated by contract. The juridical persons of both kinds, the individuals and the corporations, constitute the list of associates.

If we broaden the field of activity across the political and philosophical sciences, we come in this way to the social contract.

In the years 1512 to 1514 the Roman patrician Mario Salamonio composed his theory of the state, civitas, and of society, in which he had considered the state as a kind of societas; in this sense societas is a partnership or company of patricians. The assembly of the partners lies in the basis of a contract, pactio, pactum. A society is founded either explicitly or implicitly on the contract.96 The idea of the social contract can be traced back to the Middle Ages and antiquity. Salamonio and other representatives of this view in modern times linked it with the theory of the contract of business enterprise and venture. The contract in commerce, in limited ←128 | 129→partnership and other social contracts lay implicitly or explicitly in the foreground of political, juridical and philosophical thought.

Several thinkers in the 16th and 17th century traced their conception of law and the state back to the social contract.

Bourgeois society was conceived by Salamonio, by the opponents of absolute monarchy, like some Calvinists and Huguenots on the continent, as well as by Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, later by J.J. Rousseau and Immanuel Kant, as the result of a contract. Some of these jurists and philosophers distinguished two kinds of contracts in this regard: a contract between persons, who establish a society or wish to do so, and a rule or contract of state. The former is a contract among persons of the same level, that is among equals or persons of the same station. The latter is a contract between unequals; on the one side the subjects, on the other the authority, for it will determine the relation between subordinate and superior.97

Society was conceived as the rendering of the Latin societas by Salamonio and in part by Luther. The former wrote about the civilis quaedem societas, that is bourgeois society, as a kind of state, civitas: civil society is founded on contract and without it is inconceivable. Luther spoke about the society monopolia, that is the trading and producing society, which monopolizes the market for its commodity. Other societies without contract were not considered. In the 17th century Thomas Hobbes had presented a human condition, in which the people lived without contract. In this condition life is nasty, brutish and short. It is the condition of continuous war of all against all, bellum omnium contra omnes. The basic idea that we voluntarily come together as equals is ascertained as the foundation of society in commerce and in civil life. The difference between the two ideas that we voluntarily join and depart in the commercial society, while the membership in the enterprise negotiate as equals, and in civil (bourgeois) society enter as subordinates, stimulated a wide-ranging dispute. That means that at one time we were free and relinquished our freedom. We have lost the right to exit the state like we step out of a coach.98

The notion of the societas, which derives from Roman law, was erected on that of contract. Contract in Roman private law was conceived of differently than in modern civil law. In antiquity contract was taken up as a binding agreement between parties, but in opposition to contemporary practice only a closed circle of debt contracts was recognized in Roman law.99

Pactum (Pactio) and contractus in Roman law are translated as Vertrag, as contract. The slave was not capable of contract. The notions, too, of contractual freedom and stipulated liabilities were prominent in antiquity and modern times. The concept of a societas in both cases was founded on a preceding contract. Both ideas of the juridical and of the political-social contract were mentioned only later. The ←129 | 130→legal contract is the only one recognized today as valid, and it is inextricably bound up with the ideas of liberty and equality. Equality and liberty in the formal sense were related to the entire civil society in modern times—in fact only in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The legal contract appears as one of the most important means of securing and expanding formal freedoms and equalities, which characterize bourgeois society. The system of civil rights of liberty and equality has enjoyed an enthusiastic reception in modern times. Those who have advanced this system became enthusiastic and have extended the legal contract in fantasy to the social contract and the state contract. The legal contract has an objective foundation and function in bourgeois society, its content is actual, although formal. The social contract is the result of a mythopoetic invention, and it has neither a social, political, juridical, nor historical foundation or role. It only appears because people have looked at the legal contract with enthusiasm. Normal citizens are free pro forma, even though norms are variously conceived. There is a system of norms and variabilities within the system of civil society.100 The contradiction between free trade and the obligation of companies on the one hand and the incremental unfreedom of civil society on the other, led to a series of uprisings and revolutions in England, North America, France, Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere from the 16th to the 19th century in order to broaden the formal freedoms among the people and to generalize them. A second contradiction lies in the derivation of the concept society [Gesellschaft] and journeyman [Geselle]. Societas, Sozietäre, joint-stock owners [Gesellschafter] are linked to the idea of equality, while the journeyman was conceived as an original member of an entourage of the house, of the prince and others.101 The associations of journeymen in the 15th to the 17th century were subordinate to the council in the German towns. The history of the word craft, trade, guild [Gewerk], trade union [Gewerkschaften] is the opposite. While society [Gesellschaft] is generalized, the trade union today is related only to the working part of the whole.102

Society or societas was related to the juridical relations of civil society. Civil society is a formal idea, identified by some with the state, by others with the system of law. Until the 19th century—and in the justification of the contemporary social sciences—it is targeted as a formal institution and consciously expressed and systematically presented and conceived. It has to do with the celebrated systems of bourgeois society in the entire period from the 15th to the 19th century, of natural law, of the social contract and of the theories of human rights and tyrannicide bound up with them (cf. Molina, Suarez, Victoria; further Salamonio concerning the Huguenot Monarchomachia, like Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Rousseau and Kant among others have emphasized).

←130 | 131→

The joint-stock company is conceived of as the model for society as a whole. The former ought to be constituted through the contributions of associates and the like. According to this account it’s on target and rational, that is rationally constructed. Ragione in Italian in the 14th and 15th century was related to the accounts of business affairs (lista dei conti) (affari) and to their interests.103 Normally, the joint-stock company has the purpose of increasing money for the owner of the stock. It is a rational enterprise or can be rationally run, even if the commodities produced are employed irrationally. Human society is neither now (nor in its origin) rational. A future reason in society is not hereby excluded. Human society is the result over thousands of years of traditional relations and actions. The joint-stock company is newly invented and established daily. The notion of a joint-stock company is very old.

The joint-stock company was and is a corporate body; societas is in this sense ambiguous. In Roman law state and community [Gemeinde] like municipium and colonia, corporations and at the same time associations, collegium, sodalitas, sodality in private law.104 Associations and companies, societates, are distinguished by their construction. The means of creating an association is its organization, the subsuming of the members constitutionally under the authority of the association, so that the totality, the corporation becomes free or capable of action and dealing with assets. The means of establishing a society on the other hand are obligation, credit and contract.

In this way the opposition between the legal, transactional and the association capable of action, of the corporation and of pure societies is given. The societas of Roman private law is the expression of a contract between legal persons. The partnership [Sozietät] is not capable of action or of dealing with assets. The parties in the contract are legally capable. They are bound through mutual obligations to determinate performances in a given period of time in order to reach a common goal. The societas is not a legal subject, only the associates are legal subjects. The professional association is likewise not a legal subject, only the associates, socii, which have founded a societas are such.105 In one sense society in the social contract is identical to the societas, the contract is in this case a contract like others as well. In a further sense the social contract is toto coelo different from the other contracts. It is a mythical contract.

The joint-stock company in modern times is a corporate body, a corporation or an association, which, independent of the individual members or stockholders, is legally capable. It is not only the result of a contract, and it is not identical with the contract. It is capable of action and of dealing with assets. The transition from the Roman concept of societas to that of the modern bourgeois concept of society depends upon the changed legal condition of the society, its relationship to the ←131 | 132→process of economy and state as an invention of modernity. Medieval activities in this connection are excluded.

The state, civitas, res publica, in Roman antiquity was treated as a corporate body, and this method of treatment, was taken up in the Middle Ages as well as in modern times from different angles and by various representatives. In the ancient as well as in the new systems of law, persons who stand in a formal relation to the state are also considered legally capable of acting. The joint-stock company based on a formal contract, assumes this relationship as a legal person and appears in this relationship as a corporate body in relation to the state.106

The question is often posed whether the joint-stock company is an invention of the 16th or 17th century. In Germany, in any case, the word “Aktien” [stock] appears in the middle of the 16th century in the sense of instruments payable to bearers.

Such securities were also mentioned in Genoa in the 15th and 16th century. The difference between the practices of the 15th and those of the 17th century appears to be bound up with the speculation in securities in the later period. Everyone is in agreement that the San Giorgio bank in Genoa was a joint-stock company since 1409. The bank came out of a merger of groups of state creditors and was transformed into a stock-owned bank through dividends. The main enterprises which could be called organizations in capitalist form in Central Europe during the 15th and 16th century, are the Welser, Imhof, Tucher, Paumgartner or Fugger in Upper Germany. By the way, the joint-stock companies appear in Styrian and Upper Austrian iron ore trade in the 15th century.107 The Hansa appears as a transitional form.

The commercial societies and companies in the Middle Ages have a connection to the joint-stock companies of modernity, but they are to be distinguished from them.108

The German Hansa founded a league or union, which was active in the common interest. The union was not a state, that is not a federal republic, but it possessed some characteristics of authority. The union membership negotiated independently with the states on the North and Baltic Seas like England, the Scandinavian countries, and so on. Yet the Hansa towns did not form a state like Venice. The city states of Italy entered into the intermediate stages in the history of state authority just like the Hansa towns. They do not lie on the same plane, but rather point to the limits of state power in the hands of the papacy and of the Holy Roman Empire in the 14th to the 17th century. In the late 17th and 18th century absolutism of state power was in the hands of the Grand Elector Friedrich Wilhelm, later taken over by Frederick the Great, Maria Theresa and Joseph II in Central Europe; in Spain, France and England this occurred earlier, and only later in the Italian Risorgimento of the 19th century.

←132 | 133→

The German Hansa, the guild system, the putting-out system and the family enterprises of the Upper German commercial firms achieved a large turnover and a great level of commercial activity in the first centuries of the modern era; however, they limited their activity or even disappeared altogether in the 17th and 18th century. The causes of their blossoming and their decline are varied. Their development appears as a contingent one. Their history is that of the forms in the capitalist organization of the earlier epochs in modern times, as Jakob Strieder has shown.

The joint-stock company like other companies of this kind are forms of economic enterprises in the capitalist era. Yet there is a further connection between these forms of organization of the modern era and the ideas in Roman antiquity concerning the nature of the corporation in general. On these grounds we have linked the statements of Sohm, Mitteis and Kaser in the development of law. The theory of society in which we live as people, has a formal, external relationship to this earlier idea of society. The reason why the social sciences have chosen the concept of society can be explained historically. The followers of Saint-Simon, the utopian socialists as well as Auguste Comte, John Stuart Mill and Herbert Spencer played a special role in relation to it.

The Hanseatic society was a formal cooperative [Genossenschaft], which had been formed by patricians, guild members, guilds [Gilden] and offices. It arose in the late Middle Ages, that is roughly in the 12th century, and continued to develop until the 15th to 17th century. It pointed to the strength of domestic and foreign trade of that epoch, of the importation and export of commodities, to the monopolies and the extent of their enterprises. Their linkages over the coastal towns of Lübeck, Hamburg, Bremen, Danzig, Konigsberg, Riga and across the inland towns of Cologne, Dortmund, Lunenburg and Goslar as well as the expansion of their trade to London, Deventer, Visby, Dorpat and Novograd concretely confirm the extent of their reach. The turnover of their trade was correspondingly great for the conditions of the Middle Ages as for that of the early-modern period. They imported and exported cloth, fish, salt, butter, hides and fur, grain, wax, wood, beer, copper, iron, oil, flax, Rhine wine, Westphalian linen and silver. Their trade was plied in all directions over the Baltic and North Seas with great energy. Technically the Hansa society played a part in the transformation of sea travel; they integrated the types of ships from the cog to the hulk and further to the caravel, in part developed and in part appropriated them. The hulk, which had a single mast, remained the most important ship of Hansa trade to the 17th century. The caravel possessed up to three masts and could carry a load of more than 300 tons.109

If we compare the load of the Hansa ships with ship loads in the region of the Mediterranean, the following picture emerges:110

←133 | 134→

Table 5: Ship Cargo (on Average), Hansa and Venice, 1300–1700





75 (cog)


150 (hulk)


300 (caravel)







600 to 700

Thus, the ship’s cargo was extended step by step in Venice and in the Hansa towns. The economic driver in this development came from the region of the Mediterranean.

The historical development of the cog ship and of the hulk ship was closely connected to the elaboration of trade on the Baltic and North Sea and with the technique in shipbuilding there. The larger caravel arose in the region of the Mediterranean and had a peculiar kind of construction. It was also used for military purposes, but to be sure without great effect.

Many explanations of the decline of the Hansa have been advanced. In part they trace the disappearance of the Hansa in the 17th century back to the external conditions of the Thirty Years’ War and the decrease of production, of consumption and demand under these conditions, of the extension to the wars of the English, Spanish, Dutch and Scandinavians; in part internal conditions were made responsible. In their internal organization the Hansa was a system of town cooperatives [Genossenschaften], offices and guilds [Gilden], determined by the guild system and dominated by the patrician system in the Hansa cities. The difficulties of the guild and patrician systems brought about the decline of the Hansa in the 17th century, as we have seen from our standpoint.

There are further contradictions to be observed in the commercial-technical realm. The Hansa was a cooperative [Genossenschaft] in the medieval sense. The inner structure of this cooperative was a loose one, and it is not comparable to the modern bourgeois corporation organization which is strongly internally segmented. The guild system of the early-modern period could not take over the manufacturing process in relation to the structuration and division of labour. In the sense of technical production, the guild system had in many cases offered resistance especially in relation to the introduction of new processes of labour, for example, in the creation of cloth. That led to a further contradiction, since the Hansa art of shipbuilding was progressive, and it mastered the new kinds of ←134 | 135→construction first of the hulk and then later of the caravels. The cloth and metal processing guilds had continued their traditional production processes in the first centuries of the modern era. On the one hand, the traditional processes of labour had diminished the turnover of commodities because they could not compete with the production of commodities in England and in the Netherlands. On the other hand, an internal rationalization of the labour process did not occur in Central Europe, since some branches of production were operated according to an ancient, others, on the contrary, according to a new kind and mode. The Hansa in Central Europe had not appropriated the formal and external regulation of entrepreneurship and not adapted to the new forms of organization of the capitalist system.

The commercial constitution of the Hansa merchants had not led to the concentration and accumulation but rather to the fragmentation of capital. They plied their single businesses and did not expand them. They appeared as a rule to have founded neither family firms nor the broader capitalist companies. They invested their goods and sought profit in sea trade, but in single enterprises independently of one another.111

Hence it led to a further contradiction between the training of skill in the arts of shipbuilding and seafaring and the lack of perfection of technique in Hanseatic entrepreneurship. It formed no corporate bodies. We will consider some examples of these enterprises.

The English East India Company founded in the 17th century was an early example of companies that traded in capital shares, and thus were a model for the further development of the joint-stock company. The company was led ‘democratically’, the leadership lay in the hands of the totality of participants, who on an annual basis confirmed the directors in their offices by the decision of the majority and raising of hands. All commodities brought with from India were sold at public auction. Each participant had the right to inspect the company books. When the ships returned, the participants assembled, and the East Indian letters were publicly read out.

In every way the English East Indian Company was the opposite of the Dutch East Indian Company, which was not led democratically but rather oligarchically, bound by the spirit of speculation and enlarged by a great collection of capital. Their foundation was the collection of seafarers and merchants from Amsterdam and London who had invested their capital in shipping companies and foreign travel.112 The concept of democracy is relative since only the well-off owners of stock had the right to vote in the English company—the poor in England and the people of the East Indies absolutely none. The English company was a corporate body in the modern sense.

←135 | 136→

The Jihlava commercial cloth company was an organization of capital, which can be considered an early joint-stock company. Jihlava in the Middle Ages had a significant cloth-making guild. Yet in the 16th century the sale of products declined, and the guild sought to support the economically needy masters by means of the then often practiced limitation on the number of journeymen and of the number of pieces that single weavers were allowed to produce.

The sinking rate of sales and the lack of working capital, wool, alum, dyes and so on were connected to the failure of the putting-out system, which was driven by advances provided by the cloth merchants. Thus, the Jihlava weavers decided to establish their own company and were supposed to take over the domestic putting- out enterprise, the production of cloth and the sale of the products. The statute or plan of the company was confirmed by imperial officials in 1592. It was built on the model of the Styrian iron trade company in the 15th and 16th century. Membership in the company consisted of citizens of all estates and classes of the city of Jihlava in possession of capital. This had to do with a publicly registered corporation that is registered and recognized. Whether shares were involved is unknown. The town folk had carried their basic capital [Legegelder] together, the poorer groups in two’s, three’s and so on, the rich singularly. Whether individuals and groups were legal persons and part owners of securities or stock is a possibility which we leave open. In any event the cloth company was a legal person and counted as a corporate body. The total capital of the company was insufficient for business needs, and thus it borrowed significant sums, namely several thousand guilders from merchants in Styr, Prague and other cities; the Jihlava cloth company, exactly like the Styrian iron trade company, had thereupon issued bonds at a fixed rate of interest. The company was required to assume responsibility for the bonds; the shareholders were responsible only insofar as they were members of the company. Explicit confirmation of the liability of the shareholders or groups of shareholders was not ascertained and the limitation of liability, possibly related to the value of the capital investment of each shareholder, is likewise not established. The members of the company were the ones who produced the cloth.

The company as a corporate body was also a putting-out enterprise [Verleger]. It had sold the wool that it bought in Bohemia and Moravia to the poorer Jhilavan cloth and hat makers, in part as advanced payment, and made off with the finished commodities. These were sold in the fairs and markets in Austria, Hungary and in the Siebengebirge. The other cloth merchants in Jihlava continued their economic activities, and therefore this is not about a company monopoly. Not only citizens of Jihlava, but rather all who had substantial capital, could participate in the founding of a Jihlavan cloth company.113

←136 | 137→

A social system consists of parts, factors and conditions which reciprocally effect and oppose one another. Let us consider the previously mentioned case of Jack of Newbury. England, at the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th century, had a cloth factory and system of manufacture that was quite highly developed, not only in relation to the conditions of that period, but also in relation to those of a later era. The class of entrepreneurs of this sort made great strides in concentrating the production of woolen cloth in their hands. However, their external role and political influence were weak. The royal government had considered them as a danger to the traditional organization of the guilds [Gilden] and to the majority of small craftsmen. It was forbidden in England to bring together in one workshop a weaver and a cloth fuller [Walkergewerbe]; employing more than two apprentices in cottage industry outside the town was prohibited as well.114 The guild pressure on parliament was greater than that of the rich factory owners, which was later reversed. Yet all were part of one and the same social system.

If we turn to Upper German trade in the period from the 15th to the 17th century, we discover from a number of historical points of view similar, from other points of view on the contrary, different conditions. Monopolies, cartels and the beginnings of the concentration of capital are present in the activities of the rich families in south Germany. The patricians of the monopolies of South German trade in Augsburg, Nuremberg, Ravensburg and Ulm during the 15th and 16th century had established companies, dominated the city council, and had taken financial power into their hands. Their firms were predominantly family companies. The marriage ties among the families had concentrated finance and politics in their hands.

The Ravensburg company appears to have been the largest family company according to the number of its members continuing over several generations. The period of their activity is related primarily to the 15th and 16th century. The Bimmel family had a firm in Augsburg which continued through the enterprises of the father, the sons and of the families Haug, Langenauer, Link, and others married into it. They became a financial power across wide parts of Europe.

Especially in the course of the 15th and 16th century family firms developed in southern Germany. Blood relatives and relatives through marriage, brothers and brothers-in-law continued the original small family businesses founded by the father of origin and developed them into lasting and self-expanding enterprises.115 Their activity was not limited to trade and financial enterprises.

The Fugger family was active in trade, in weaving, in the metal industry and in high finance in Augsburg during the 15th, 16th, and 17th century. It had a leading role in almost all areas of business in Upper Germany and beyond in further parts of Europe, from Flanders and the Netherlands in the north, to Italy and Spain in ←137 | 138→the south. The Fugger family was founded by a member of the weavers’ guild in Augsburg. Over several generations in the 15th and 16th century it expanded its economic activity and its influence. Jakob Fugger (1459–1525), the wealthy man, was a member of a line of trade, production and finance enterprises at that time. The family firm organized, among other involvements, activities as competitors of the Ulmer and the Barchent weaving works in the area of Weissenhorn.116 It was active in mining in Tirol and Hungary especially in the copper and silver mines and also in the Oberpfalz and in Bohemia. It conducted the business of credit in Spain, France, Flanders, the Netherlands as well as in Germany. Against a loan from Jakob Fugger of 121,600 florins in the year 1496, Kaiser Wilhelm had mortgaged the revenue of the Tirol mines. At this time trade with copper and silver was the main preoccupation of the Fuggers. This trade was closely bound up with credit transactions. The war against the Swiss Confederation three years later increased the Kaiser’s need for money, which did not improve in the ensuing decades of the 16th century. The Fuggers conducted similar business with the Spanish. The assets of Fugger’s trade per year contributed around 3 million gulden, of which 270,000 florins or 9% was accounted for by mining and mining components among which was 60,000 from Tirol and 210,000 from Hungary. The commodities of the house amounted to 380,000 florins, 12% consisting mostly of copper. The accounts receivable amounted to 1.65 million florins or 55%. The Spanish accounts receivable came to 507,000 florins and the liabilities of the same to 340,000 florins. The liabilities of the firm totalled 870,000 florins. Anton Fugger, the nephew of the wealthy Jakob Fugger, asserted in 1554: “The appetite for war should reasonably wither away easily for these great men.” Like his uncle he wanted to make “profit as long as he is able.”

Nevertheless, these merchants and bankers did not understand that their fate was bound up with that of the dynasties. Since the losses of the Hapsburgs, Spanish, French among others were so high, the Fuggers also suffered as a result. The total losses of the Fuggers up to the middle of the 17th century amounted to 8 million guldens. Up to half of the claims and liabilities against the Spanish crown were lost. Their claims and liabilities against the French court and the Dutch treasurer remained largely unpaid. The fortune which the Fugger had won over the course of 200 years, disappeared. Anton Fugger was forced to admit in his will, “… on account of protracted processes of war the sending of goods could only be done with difficulty, so that we could not bring our trading goods to a conclusion and to carry our debts …”. What remained in the end of this were some landed properties which were desolated and greatly burdened by the results of continual warfare.117 [Thus, by the middle of the 17th century—at the end of the Thirty Years’ War, the fabulous Fugger fortune had largely disappeared—trans.].

←138 | 139→

The other great houses of Upper Germany did not fare essentially any better. In fact, the commercial, shipping and credit enterprises in the 16th and 17th century made unsafe transactions. The Nuremberg merchant, Hans Paumgartner, was involved with mining in the Tirol in the 15th century, that is as a member of a known copper syndicate. His son Hans Paumgartner the younger married into the Fugger family and became known as the banker of the house of Hapsburg, first as Emperor Maximillian’s money lender and afterwards to King Ferdinand. Together with the Fuggers and Haug, in 1544 the Paumgartners had loaned to Ferdinand silver in the value of 100,000 florins. The Paumgartner sons had suffered a heavy fate; David lost his fortune and ended on the gallows; Johann Georg who sat in debtors’ prison for five years, from 1565–1570, had to relinquish all his fortune and was forced to flee to foreign lands.

The Welsers belonged to the oldest houses in Augsburg. In the 15th and 16th century they were just as involved with the Habsburg money business as the Fuggers and Paumgartners. They were active in Portugal, Antwerp, Italy and beyond that in East Indian trade and had a branch of the house together with Imhof in Nuremberg. The Welsers in Nuremberg had mostly engaged in commodity trade and money transactions like the Fuggers, Imhof, Paumgartner among others. They had their factories in Genoa, Venice, Aquila and Milan, in Vienna, in Antwerp and Lyon. They participated in the rich silver pits in Schlackenwald, had lent a great deal of money to Duke Schlick together with Hans Nutzel and could expand their enterprise. The well-known silver ore mines of Joachimstal were found in the Schlackenwald. The Welsers were often mentioned at this time in relation to money transactions together with Fugger and Imhof. In Antwerp, Spain and Lyon these families allowed themselves to be enticed into speculative money matters. The Welsers were mixed up in the financial crisis of 1537–1562. In 1580 their large land holdings in Antwerp had to be sold. Matthäus Welser became the Imperial tax collector [Reichspfennigmeister]; he remained a creditor of the Kaiser with great sums of money. On the day after his death in 1614 his brother was declared incapable of payment, and the Welser catastrophe followed suit.

The Höchstetters in the 16th century rose very high by means of speculation with Tirol silver and copper businesses among other things; however, they got into money difficulties and debt and were not able to avoid the collapse of their businesses. A similar story is told about the Manlich family, which became wealthy in the course of the 16th century and went bankrupt in 1574. Similarly, the Neidharts had been able to conduct large commercial transactions until 1570 and went under in the following years; their total wealth consisted almost entirely of income from foreign ventures. Florence, Pisa, Venice and Genoa which earlier played a great role in world trade, had lost their commercial significance in the 16th century. The ←139 | 140→focus of trade was shifted to the north but by the 17th century the centre moved to the hands of the English and Dutch.

The importation of colonial commodities, intercourse with India, America and Africa and the wars in Europe in connection with the devastation of the cities and of agriculture changed the trade map. Nuremberg which was so important for the metal processing industry, Augsburg for money and credit transactions, relinquished their leading positions. The Hansa cities were also changed. The confluence of the Weser and other rivers temporarily fell into foreign hands.118

The formation of banks, of other credit institutions and of joint-stock companies are forms of processes of capitalist organization. Speculation with money and commodities, wars and loans for purposes of war are external events in the life of the people. Yet the warlike activities, the conquests and devastations are not external events of imperial and royal enterprises. The money and trade princes functioned as mediators in the 15th, 16th, and 17th century.

The forms of economic and social processes are bound up with the substantial processes of the same. However, this linkage is a mediate one, since both, legal and administrative forms as well as the social and economic substance, traverse an apparently separate history. The history of the juridical, property and political forms of administration is for a time—a time which stretches over centuries—other than that of the process of labour in production, distribution and in the exchange of the products of social labour. There is no automatic or mechanical connection between the two.

Human life without the formal side is unthinkable and impossible. There must be a form for the labour process, however the forms do not always correspond to our expectations; they are not apposite or customized forms. In the transition to the period of high capitalism we have seen that several forms were assumed; some continued others abolished. The previous era of feudalism did not immediately disappear. The domination of the aristocratic estate continued into the period of high capitalism. The juridical forms in agriculture had changed after a protracted struggle.

Sombart praised the adventurers of the early capitalist era. The pirates, the warriors, condottieri, sea robbers and conquerors formed the romantic streak in the early capitalist spirit.119

Romanticism has its early history. It begins in the Middle Ages with the song of the minstrels, trovatori and troubadours. Only this romanticism is a streak in the spirit of those people who stayed at home. The question is whether the pirates and condottieri were romantic spirits or whether they had been dominated by a romantic streak. Most of them were murderers, robbers and rapists. The interactions of the forms of speculation among the merchants and bankers as well as ←140 | 141→among the authorities, the princes and the emperor in the period of early capitalism is palpable. Both sides, the private sea robbers as well as the public power, were seekers of adventure at the cost of the common folk, that is, of the peasants and the town proletariat. Adventurers made people into slaves, exploited and killed them.

The merchants, patricians and the middle class served as mediators between the process of labour and the state regime. This is in relation to production and trade in the towns. The landowners, the Church, the bishoprics did not behave any differently than did the authorities; they did not serve as mediators in this process.


1. R. Mols, in: C. M. Cipolla (ed.), Wirtschaftsgeschichte Europas, Vol. 2, Stuttgart 1979. K. Helleiner, in: Cambridge Economic History of Europe, 5.4., Cambridge 1967.

2. The figures and percentages are generally trustworthy, if they have a connection with other figures and percentages, so that they appear meaningful. We shall not ascertain anything specific and definitive, only propose a picture.

3. A. de Maddalena, in Europäische Wirtschaftsgeschichte, Vol. 2, C. M. Cipolla, K. Borchardt (Eds.), 1979. Concerning the Electorate of the Mark Brandenburg, Cf. Inama-Sternegg, Bevölkerung, loc. cit.

4. K. F. Helleiner, Cambridge Economic History, Vol. 4, 1967. F. Braudel, Civilisation, matérielle … (see above) 1979.

5. Health science established the provenance of the Black Death from Central Asia and its path across the Black Sea. The aetiology of the Black Death should be researched further, since geographical knowledge is sufficient. The aetiology of the bubonic plague is known. The occidental rat flea xenopsylla cheopsis is one of the most important carriers of this plague. The flea has a parasitic relationship to several rodents such as rats (rattus norvegicus). One of the rodents, the marmot, whose fur was sought after in medieval Europe, came over the Silk Road, over the lower course of the Volga, the Black Sea and the Mediterranean to the Near East and Europe. The plague was known in Astrakhan and Alexandria, 1346 and 1347, 1348 in Toulouse, Bordeaux, England and Ireland, 1349 in Norway, 1350 in Denmark and Germany, 1351 in Poland and 1352 in Russia. In 1497 Hieronymus Brunschwygk published his Liber de arte destillandi de simplicibus (The book of the correct way to distill singular things). In 1500 his Chirurgie, Dis ist das Buch der Cirurgia, Das ist Hantwirkung der Wuntarzny was published. From his hand came likewise in 1500 the book Liber pestilentialis de venenis epidimie (The Book of the poison the plague). He was active in Straßburg and his books appeared in that same place. Aureolus Bombastus Paracelsus of Hohenheim composed several books about chemistry, surgery and medicine for wounds as well as about general medicine. He disputed the view of medicine of the Galen school. In his stormy life he moved several times. Most of his writings appeared posthumously. Brunschwygk and Paracelsus employed chemicals against human diseases and thereby achieved contributions to iatrochemistry.

6. Hans Sachs and Jost Amman. Eigentliche Beschreibung aller Stände auf Erden. Publication by Sigmund Feyerabend. Frankfurt am Main 1568. The publishers commissioned the so-called Ständebuch and wrote a preface. Hans Sachs described: “the estates, arts, handicrafts and trade/ ←141 | 142→and composed in German rhymes/very useful and humorous to read/ and also replete with artistic figures by Jost Amman.”

7. W. Abel, G. Franz, Geschichte des deutschen Bauernstandes, 2nd. Edition, Stuttgart 1976. F. Lütge, Deutsche Sozial—und Wirtschaftsgeschichte, 3rd edition 1966. G. Knapp, Landarbeiter in Freiheit und Knechtschaft, Leipzig 1909. Theodor von der Goltz, Geschichte der deutschen Landwirtschaft (1902), Stuttgart 1963. B. H. Slicher v. Bath, idem.

8. In the Latin edition of the Ständebuch Hartmann Schopper, [πανοπλια. Frankfurt am Main 1568] treated the peasants, rusticus, in the same manner: »Pauper et obscuras inglorious incolo sylvas, atque gravern vitam raroquinetus ago. Insidias avibus moliri, figere damas, Claudere nunc rivos, et dare rursus acquis. Sunt vigilanda mihi, Laber improbus instat ubique Sen ver, aut aetas, aut fera venit hyems. »

9. The peasants in the 16th century complained about forced collective labour [Scharwerk] and corvée: “I must do compulsory collective labour all day long so that I may not work my field. I have a young master, really a nasty one, for whom I must perform compulsory collective labor [Scharwerk] and compulsory labor [Fron].” Jacob Ayrer from Nuremberg, 1544–1605.

10. B. H. Slicher von Bath, in Cambridge Economic History of Europe, Vol. 5.m Cambridge 1977.

11. G. Franz, Geschichte des deutschen Bauernstandes, 2nd Edition, Stuttgart 1976. Idem. (ed.) Quellen zur Geschichte des Bauernkrieges, Munich 1963.

12. Lütge (Deutsche Sozial—und Wirtschaftsgeschichte, p. 220ff.) is of the view that one cannot speak of an impoverishment of the peasants of Southwest Germany at the time of the last great uprising. The economic causes were not the primary ones. They were, however, religious and political. That which was apparent was also overlooked here: The twelve articles speak about the abolition of serfdom, of interest and taxes, about the maintenance of community practices, and about the care of widows and orphans. These articles express the economic program of the great peasant uprising. On the title page of the article letter issued by the rebellious peasants is the picture of an armed band of peasants. The title of this letter reads: „Operation/ Article and instruction/ thus having been undertaken by all bands and clusters of peasants/thus were duty-bound together: M:D:XXV:” It had to do with an issuance concerning the crowd from Baltring for the further instruction of other peasant bands and groups. On the title page of the twelve articles it was written further: The fundamental and legal main article of all the peasantry and hangers-on of spiritual and secular authority, of which they feel themselves aggrieved. This refers to all peasants and not only those who have united themselves into troop units, an army or groups. Further to this: M. Kobuch and E. Müller (eds.), Der deutsche Bauernkrieg, Weimar 1975. From the state archives in Dresden and Weimar.

13. Th. v.d. Goltz, Geschichte der deutschen Landwirtschaft, Vol. 1, Part 2, §2. Günther Franz, Der deutsche Bauernkrieg, 10th edition, Darmstadt 1975. Idem. Zur Geschichte des Bauernkrieges, 1963. H. Kellenbenz und R. Walter, in: Handbuch der Europäischen Wirtschafts—und Sozialgeschichte, W. Fischer (ed.). 1986.

14. J. J. Rousseau had written: “The first who called out, this property belongs to me, and found another who was so foolish as to find it convincing, was the founder of bourgeois society.” Many have taken up this idea differently, like property is theft and so on. G. W. F. Hegel (Rechtsphilosophie, 1821) distinguished between possession and property. Possession is the foundation of inequality (loc. cit, §49). Taking possession (§54) is in part the immediate corporal seizure, in part the formation, working the land, the culture of plants, the taming, feeding and raising of animals, in part it is the designation (§§55–58). One can alienate property. Possession becomes transformed into property through external recognition of it and thereafter it can be ←142 | 143→sold. The Hegelian system of freedom, of possession, of taking possession and of property aligned itself with the program of liberation of the peasants. Hegel asserted: “… nature is not free and thus it is neither right nor unjust” (§49). Freedom is the fundamental condition of justice; the rebellious peasants already said it; they concretely grasped that there is a connection between freedom and justice, in the succession of concrete freedom, namely the abolition of collective compulsory service and serfdom, towards justice. Hegel expressed it abstractly. Freedom in the program of the peasants as well as in the Hegelian system is formal-legal freedom, that appears at first concretely and thereafter abstractly. On the one hand, it is formally bound with property, on the other hand, with justice. That which is taken as possession, is transformed through recognition into property. The assumption of recognition is the presence of the bourgeois legal system. (This is a circular argument, to follow Hegel; not so among the peasants). Marx declared his agreement with the Hegelian system of possession and property. The practical foundation of both theoretical systems is traced back to the sayings of the peasant movement. Hegel’s conception of universal freedom is based on the investigations which he begins in the German Middle Ages.

15. Georg Simmel (Philosphie des Geldes, Munich 1930) had written: “The slave holder, like the landowner had the personal interest, to maintain his slaves or his peasants who were duty-bound to perform services, in good and performance-ready condition.” “The liberation of the peasants must so to speak be paid with a liberation of the employers, that is, with the cessation of the care which those who were unfree enjoyed.” (p. 317f.) That is correct in part, but also in part a romanticization of the unfree conditions of labour, and it was said only after the liberation of the slaves and peasants. During the epoch of the struggles for liberation the productivity of the unfree and free labourers were compared, to the benefit of the latter. (Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, 1776):

1. The welfare from the side of the lord is a patriarchal idea of life relations on the domain or slave plantation.

2. When little is produced, when that is, productivity is low, welfare thus has little significance.

3. The rebellious peasants concerned themselves not only with the freedom of wage labour, but also with the return of the old communal rights, which was important for their own welfare.

4. No one asked about the intentions of the slaves and serfs. Their opinions didn’t count. That is the reification through the unfree conditions of labour, not its objectification. Simmel looks at the labourers as pure objects, that is not as humans, only as things.

16 16. J. Kulischer, Allgemeine Wirtschaftsgeschichte, Vol. II, 1928, 2nd edition, Munich 1958.

17 17. G. F. Knapp, Die Landarbeiter in Freiheit und Knechtschaft, 1909. F. Lütge, Geschichte der deutschen Agrarverfassung, 2nd edition, Stuttgart 1976.

18 18. F. Lütge, Geschichte der Agrarverfassung, loc. cit. p. 83. Otto Johannsen (see above) describes the transport and supporting labour [Förderarbeit] of the peasants for the mines in the Harz.

19 19. Grossmann, Handwörterbuch der Staatswissenschaften. J. Conrad et al. (eds.), 3rd edition 1911 (keyword Gemeinheitsteilung). Idem. W. Lexis, (keyword Abbau).

20 20. W. Abel, Geschichte der deutschen Landwirtschaft, 3rd edition, Stuttgart 1978. Idem. Agrarkrisen und Agrarkonjunktur in Mitteleuropa vom 13. bis zum 19. Jahrhundert (1935), 3rd edition, Hamburg 1978. Cf. B. H. Slicher von Bath, in: Cambridge Economic History of Europe, Cambridge 1977, Chapter 8, in which the significance of Abel’s contribution is assessed.

21 21. W. Abel, Geschichte der deutschen Landwirtschaft, loc. cit., p. 201.

22 22. W. Abel, ibidem. F. Lütge, ibidem.

23 23. We have already alluded to the connection of these moments and will refer to them further.

←143 | 144→

24 24. W. Abel. Loc. cit., p. 203. The history of the cloister Eberbach is related to the period of boom of agricultural economy, 1551–1600, in Europe; for example, the export of rye from Danzig grew more than 100,000 tons annually around the year 1600. The cultivated wheat on the island of Fehmarn in Lübeck Bay became so renowned, “that people in France, Spain and Italy paid dearly for it.” W. Abel, Agrarkrisen und Agrarkonjuntur, op. cit., p. 113.

25 25. Karl Marx had a differentiated view in relation to the land in Europe and in India. The Russian sociologist, M. M. Kovalevsky had argued that feudalism in India had been present prior to the period of colonization. Marx found this risible and wrote in this connection: “Because ‘benefices,’ ‘farming out of offices’ [but this is not at all feudal, as Rome attests] and commendation are founded in India, Kovalevsky here finds feudalism in the Western European sense. Kovalevsky forgets, among other things, serfdom, which is not in India, and which is an essential moment. [In regard to the individual role of defence, however (cf. Palgrave), not only of the unfree, but also of the free peasants by the feudal lords (who play a role as wardens), this plays a limited role in India, except for the wakuf]. [Of the poetry of the soil which the Romanic-Germanic feudalism had as its own (see Maurer) as little is found in India as in Rome. The soil is nowhere noble in India, so that it might not be alienable to commoners!].” Marx contributed here negatively to the question of periodization, insofar as he excluded India from the feudal period. The farming out of offices was practised in ancient Rome, in India, as well as in medieval Europe and thus had nothing in particular to do with feudalism. As the differentia specifica of Romanic-Germanic feudalism one finds the poetry of the soil and the nobility of the land. Marx positively contributed to the question of periodization, insofar as he considered serfdom as an essential moment in European feudalism. Thus the moments of serfdom and of feudalism were particular characteristics of the history of Europe. Lawrence Krader, Asiatic Mode of Production, Assen 1979, p. 202, 383. Karl Marx, Formen vorkapitalistischer Produktion, H.P. Harstick (ed.), Campus 1977.

26 26. W. Abel, Agrarkrisen und Agrarkonjunktur, 3rd edition, Hamburg 1978.

27 27. See above the sermons of the shepherd Hans Böhm, further the Zwölf Artikel of 1525. §§ 5, 6, 10.

28 28. J. Hasemann, Gemeinde, in: Ersch und Gruber, Encyklopädie, 1853. W. Lexis, Abbau in Handwörterbuch der Staatswissenschaften. J. Conrad et al. (eds.) 3rd edition, 1910. F. Grossmann, Gemeinheitsteilung, ibid. Th. von der Goltz, Geschichte der deutschen Landwirtschaft, vol. 1. 1963, p. 406ff. The separations, and so on were introduced by the legislation of the 18th and 19th century.

29 29. Abel, Agrarkrise und Agrarkonjunktur, ibidem. F. Lütge, Geschichte der deutschen Agrarverfassung, ibid. Janssen and Pareto, see above.

30 30. G. Franz, Der Dreißigjährige Krieg und das deutsche Volk, 3rd edition, 1961, p. 177f.

31 31. Potato cultivation was ushered in in the 18th century and spread at the end of the century by starvation of the years 1771/72. W. Abel, in: Handbuch der deutschen Wirtschafts—und Sozialgeschichte, Vol. 1, 1971, chapters 13, 20.

32 32. Günter Franz, Geschichte des deutschen Bauernstandes, § 13. Otto Hinze, Kalvinismus und Staatsräson in Brandenburg, Gesammelte Abhandlungen 3. 1943. In this overview, Emden and surroundings, Schleswig among others, were left out. Emden was at that time a centre of Calvinism, yet the peasants of this region at this time were not rebellious. Perhaps the peasant-religious pastors also here, as in the East, were in the service of the lords (Franz, loc. cit., p. 195). An important factor was the effect of eastern colonization on the lives of the peasants.

33 33. K. Bücher, Die Bevölkerung von Frankfurt Main im XIV. und XV. Jahrhundert, Tübingen 1886, p. 484.

←144 | 145→

34 34. This concerns the history of the word, not to that of the village. Towns had their hamlets. Johan Kepler was born in Weil der Stadt (Württemberg) 1571.

35 35. Grimm, Wörterbuch.

36 36. Bücher, loc. cit., p. 481.

37 37. Sprandel, in: H. Aubin, W. Zorn (Eds.), Handbuch der deutschen Wirtschafts-und Sozialgeschichte, Stuttgart 1971, p. 339.

38 38. Schoenlank, Soziale Kämpfe, loc. cit., p. 178.

39 39. K. T. v. Inama-Sternegg, Deutsche Wirtschaftsgeschichte, Leipzig Vol. 3, part I, pp. 28–34. Duum millarium amounted to 2, trium millarium to 3 miles. 2,700 rods = 14, 175 kms. A circumference with a radius of 89 kms. and an area of 31.24 square kilometers.

40 40. K. Hegel, Städte und Gilden der germanischen Völker im Mittelalter, Vol. 2, Leipzig 1891. Naples: see C. M. Cipolla, Before the Industrial Revolution, op. cit.

41 41. F. Engels, Der deutsche Bauernkrieg (1850), 3rd, edition. W. Zimmermann, Allgemeine Geschichte des großen Bauernkrieges, 1841–1843. The passionate presentation of the peasant wars by Engels was based on the work of Zimmermann. In the 19th century the view of the peasant war was closely connected with the ideological struggles and the insurrection of 1848.

42 42. B. Schoenlank, Soziale Kämpfe vor dreihundert Jahren, 2nd edition, Leipzig 1907.

43 43. G. L. Kriegk, Frankfurter Bürgerzwiste im Mittelalter, Frankfurt am Main 1862, p. 371 and passim. Kriegk was the city archivist of Frankfurt am Main.

44 44. We return to the movements of the miners’ guilds. Rudolf Endres ‘Einwohnerzahl und Bevölkerungsstruktur Nürnbergs im 15–16. Jahrhundert.’ Mitteilungen des Vereins für Geschichte der Stadt Nürnberg, Vol. 57, 1970 emphasized the socio-economic tensions and protested against the exaggerated views. The idealizations of harmony and of discord come not only from the left but also from the right, in both the 19th and in the 20th century.

45 45. Schoenlank, loc. cit. p. 25f. Endres (loc. cit., p. 268) had already taken this up. He considered the call for the lifting of the excise tax, the oppressive tax on drink and grain, as the call to “social change”. Schoenlank conceived of this as a purpose of the reform program. A fraternalization of peasants and town folk occurred in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, as well as in other towns; however these remained isolated cases.

46 46. Thomas Deloney, The Story of John Winchcombe, Commonly Called Jack of Newbury, 1597. There are no fewer than ten structures of labour put together and executed in one large room. The poem appeared 78 years after Winchcombes’ death. In part it has to do with oral tradition. The moral of this story is also known. Aside from the donation of money for the establishment of a church, there was almost nothing further to report about Winchcombe, about the year of his birth or his career. He disappears from the history of capitalism. In the course of the 16th century we read about the fate of English entrepreneurship. In the 16th century a prohibition was levied against cutting or dyeing of cloth outside of the city of Norwich, and similarly the prohibition against the processing of woolen blankets outside of the town of York. Paul Mantoux, La révolution industrielle, (1905), Paris 1973. Monteux referred to the undertaking by Winchcombe in part as a workshop, in part as a factory. If the data are true, it appears as a factory with respect to the size, structure of labour and its concentration in one room. The prohibitive system of Nuremberg in the 16th century is comparable to the English.

47 47. On the history of the words Gilde and Zunft: Grimm: Deutsches Wörterbuch. IV/I, 4, 1949 and XVI, Leipzig 1954 (Hgs.. Wunderlich and G. Rosenhagen). F. Kluge, W. Mityka, Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache, 20th edition, Berlin 1967. J. Pokorny, Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, Francke 1959. We’re citing the examples primarily from the Germanic ←145 | 146→languages, German, English, Dutch. The legal history of the guild system: O. Gierke, Das deutsche Genossenschaftsrecht, 4 volumes (repr.) Graz 1954. The economic history of the guild system are treated in the works of W. Stieda, J. Kulischer, G. v. Below, F. Keutgen, G. Mickwitz and passim in this work.

48 48. W. Stieda, Zur Entstehung des deutschen Zunftwesens. Jena 1877. Das Zunftwesen. Handwörternuch der Staatswissenschaften, Conrad et al. (eds.), 3rd edition, 1911. The guilds are distinguished by their provenance and through their role or function. Guilds, professional associations, gilds corresponded to the system of cooperatives (Genossenschaftswesen) (O. Gierke, Das deutsche Genossenschaftsrecht, Vol. 1, 1868, §§ 32–38). Kin lineages were unified in gilds. To this are to be added the commercial guilds (§ 37) and the cooperatives (Genossenschaften) or guilds of handicraftsmen (§ 38). The guild was a free association, like that of the town, a communal entity writ small. Guilds were political, military and professional bodies, religious organizations and ethics police as well as social, spiritual brotherhoods. J. P. Davis [Corporations (1905), New York 1961] wrote about the guilds as peace association and further about the social-religious gilds, the church guilds, occupational gilds, as well as the commercial and handcraftsmen guilds. The history of the guilds in Central Europe is diverse. On the one hand, Bruno Schoenlank (Soziale Kämpfe vor dreihundert Jahren, 2nd edition, Leipzig 1907) repeatedly asserts: “In Old Nuremberg there were never any guilds.” On the other hand, Inama-Sternegg, G. Schönberg, K. Hegel, W. Stieg, K. Bücher, R. Endres enumerated the guilds in Cologne, Frankfurt am Main, Nuremberg, in the Hansa cities and elsewhere. Guilds were introduced in the later history of Nuremberg.

49 49. J. Kulischer, Allgemeine Wirtschaftsgeschichte des Mittelalters und der Neuzeit, Vol. II, 1958, Chapter 28. Wilhelm Stieda, Zunftwesen, ibid.

50 50. B. Schoenlank, Soziale Kämpfe. The apprentices negotiated and struggled with the Nuremberg council over the gifts.

51 51. K. Bücher, Die Bevölkerung von Frankfurt am Main im 14. und 15. Jahrhundert, Tübingen 1886.

52 52. The bitter struggle of the guilds in England, the Netherlands, France and Germany against the introduction of new tools and methods of labour continued and went beyond the 16th and 17th century. The inventor of the stocking maker loom had to flee England. We know similar stories from the Netherlands and France. The struggle was temporarily successful for the guilds, and had as a consequence the prohibition of employment of the new tools and the organization of labour associated with it. The guild system strongly set itself in opposition to the rationalization and the increase in the productivity in the labour process (see above).

53 53. In 1676 there were supposedly riots in England and in Cologne on account of the introduction the new ribbon looms. Josef Kulischer (Allgemeine Wirtschaftsgeschichte, II, p. 111) sees Anton Moller as the inventor of the ribbon loom. Then he was supposedly drowned by the council in Danzig. It is improbable that this concerns the history of Anton Moller, as related by Lancelotti, even if he discovered this machine all on his own, which is equally highly improbable. We eschew the further investigation of this question. Nevertheless, we take from this story the fact that the weaver guild and the council in Danzig around 1579 or 1586 set themselves against the new machines. Other guilds and towns behaved in a similar fashion. To content oneself in acting in the way portrayed here, was sensible from their standpoint, but not however from the standpoint of industrial progress.

54 54. K. T. Inama-Sternegg, B. Schoenlank, G. L. Kriegk, G. Franz, R. Elkar, W. Reininghaus, R. Sprandel, H. Kellenbenz ibid., R. Endres see below.

55 55. W. Stieda, ‚Zunftwesen‘, Handwörterbuch (see above).

←146 | 147→

56 56. W. Stieda (see above), Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik, Vol. 8, 1867. G. Schönberg, Zur wirtschaftlichen Bedeutung des deutschen Zunftwesens im Mittelalter. G. L. Kriegk, Bürgerzwiste.

57 57. The name mercantilist is only appropriate, says John Hicks, if we consider the history from the standpoint of the state and its rulers. They become mercantilists when they imagine that the merchants could serve as an instrument for mainly not mercantile purposes. John Hicks, A Theory of Economic History, Oxford 1973, p. 162. All of this is the music of the future for the Central European state in the 16th century.

58 58. K. Bücher, Die Bevölkerung von Frankfurt am Main in 14. und 15. Jahrhundert, Tübingen 1886, pp. 118, 121, 215f., 238.

59 59. F. Eulenberg, ‘Berufs–und Gewerbestatistik Heidelbergs im 16. Jahrhundert,’ Zeitschrift für die Geschichte des Oberrheins, N.F., Vol. II, 1896. Here, a comparison with Frankfurt am Main, p. 111, Table 9 is undertaken.

60 60. B. Schoenlank, Soziale Kämpfe, loc. cit., p. 46f. and 161. J. Kulischer, Allgemeine Wirschaftsgeschichte, loc. cit., vol. II, p. 118.

61 61. H. Sachs, Jost Ammon, Eigentliche Beschreibung aller Stände.

62 62. Kulischer, loc. cit., chapter 8 and 12.

63 63. Leuthold, ‘Knappschaft.’ Ersch and Gruber, Encyclopedie, Leipzig 1885. The miner’s association “is the entire society of miners and those who have anything to do with mining” or the totality of those involved with working the pits who as shareholders in a pit constitute a social union with the name guild under the direction of their master. Already in the Middle Ages the cottagers, the winch servants, smelters and mining masters gathered into one association. Through this association the territorial authorities had control over the miner’s association. Such regimentation arose not just in modern times, but earlier as well. This opinion is contested by H. Wilsdorf (Bergwerke und Hüttenanlagen, Berlin 1971).

64 64. B. Schoenlank, Soziale Kämpfe, 2nd edition, Leipzig 1907, p. 48.

65 65. G. Schönberg, Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik, Vol. 8, 1867, p. 7. He points to the opposition between the old freedom of the trades and the new freedom of trade and competition.

66 66. K. Bücher, Bevölkerung von Frankfurt, loc. cit., p. 735. The Pan Smiths, p. 118ff., 215ff.

67 67. B. Schoenlank, loc. cit., p. 145.

68 68. O. Johannsen, Geschichte des Eisens, 3rd edition, Düsseldorf 1953, p. 245.

69 69. B. Schoenlank, G. Schanz, Gesellenverbände. Handwörterbuch der Staatswissenschaften, 3rd edition, 1909. W. Sombart represented a closely related view.

70 70. R. Endres, ‘Einwohnerzahl und Bevölkerungsstruktur Nürnbergs,’ Mitteilungen des Vereins für Geschichte der Stadt Nürnbergs, Vol. 57, 1970, p. 269.

71 71. Voltaire set himself against the Church in France; at the same time, he was befriended by the King of Prussia.

72 72. J. Kulischer, Allgemeine Wirtschaftsgeschichte, loc. cit., Vol. 11, chapter 8, 9.

73 73. F. Furger, Zum Verlagssystem als Organisationsform des Frühkapitalismus im Textilgewerbe, Stuttgart 1927. R. Sprandel, in: H. Aubin, W. Zorn (eds.), Handbuch der deutschen Wirtschafts – und Sozialgeschichte, Stuttgart 1971, chapter 14.

74 74. Some wood cuts were taken out of later editions and replaced by others.

75 75. H. Sachs, Eigentliche Beschreibung aller Stände, 1568.

76 76. A. Ruppel, Johann Gutenberg, 2nd edition, Berlin 1947. A. Kaps, Deutsche Schriftkunst, Dresden 1955. K. Dietrichs, Die Buchdruckpresse, Mainz 1930. S. H. Steinberg, 500 Years of Printing, 3rd edition, Pelikan 1974. M. Clapham, in: C. Singer et al. (eds.), A History of Technology. Vol. III, Oxford 1958. The staff of a print shop around 1450–1460 amounted to 15–25 men, 2 or 3 print ←147 | 148→founders, 3 to 6 typesetters, 6–12 printers and their boys and so on. In the Ständebuch by Jost Amman and Hans Sachs there is an image of the setter’s room with one setter and his boys. The book binder and type founder each worked in his own workshop. The investment of capital for such enterprises was, in the notion of commerce at that time, large, as the process between Gutenberg and Fust indicates. Gutenberg borrowed 800 Gulden twice for his enterprise from Fust, a substantial sum. Rudolf Blum, Der Proceß Fust gegen Gutenberg. Wiesbaden 1954.

77 77. G. Schanz, Kolonisation und Industrie in Franken, 1880. Josef Kulischer, Allgemeine Wirtschaftgeschichte, loc. cit., p. 115.

78 78. See the contributions by R. Sprandel, H. Kellenbenz and W. Zorn, in: H. Aubin, W. Zorn, Handbuch der deutschen Wirtschafts- und Sozialgeshichte, Stuttgart 1971.

79 79. H. Haussherr, Wirtschaftsgeschichte der Neuzeit vom Ende des 14. bis zur Höhe des 19. Jahrhunderts, 4th edition, Cologne 1970. Haussherr calls the guild system vile. It was that in later epochs. Richard Wagner in the 19th century, thus the period of high capitalism, condemned the guild music of the master singer of Nuremberg as pedantic, spiritless, laughable and despicable. However, one has to take issue with this condemnation. Nuremberg had no guilds in earlier times, but rather only in the 15th and 16th century, when the metal creations of the town were valued and sought after in all of Europe. Italian ambassadors reported on this Nuremberg industry; the blurb read: the Nuremberg Tand goes through every land—Tand can be understood as a commodity. Tand is also a toy. The master singer and the master metal workers came out of the same guild system, that evinced the same advantages and disadvantages. Hans Kellerbenz, Nürenberger Handel um 1540. Mitteilungen des Vereins für Geschichte der Stadt Nürenberg, Vol. 50, 1960. K. Menninger, Zahlwort und Ziffer, 3rd edition, Göttingen 1979.

80 80. R. Endres, Einwohnerzahl … Nürenbergs (see above).

81 81. Die Geschichte dieser Rechenweisen bei Karl Menninger, [The history of these modes of reckoning according to Karl Menninger], Zahlwort und Ziffer, 3rd edition, Göttingen 1979.

82 82. Albrecht Dürer, in the Unterweisung der Messung, wrote about the system of space, not about numbers: The point is beginning and end of all corporeal things; it occupies no space, it is indivisible and thus exists in two modes, in corporeal space and in spirit [mind]. One can paint a point with the tip of a feather, which is a corporeal point and has, no matter how small it might be, thickness, length and breadth. The point in the mind has no dimensions, hence exists without thickness, length or breadth. 0 as a number, zero, exists in the system of numbers and is also portrayed. C. F. Gauss distinguished between the space of corporeal things and their movements from the mental realm. He also said that the system of numbers exists not doubly as with space but rather as a simple. This thought is new. Archimedes has shown in this regard that the point is without length, breadth and thickness. Dürer grasped this thought and he added to it that there are two points, a corporeal and a mental. Gauss drew the conclusion: space is twofold. The point can also be treated dimensionally so that the number of dimensions can be reduced to zero and the extension in each dimension can be reduced to zero as well. In this treatment zero is a number and also a geometrical figure indicated by a point.

83 83. The extension of the decimal system in Europe is traced back to the region of the Mediterranean in the 15th and 16th century: Pellos 1492, Adam Ries 1522, Christoph Rudolff 1530, Ciriacus Schreittmann 1578 and Simon Stevin with his book De Thiende (Das Zehnte, 1595 in the Netherlands) spread the decimal system and double-entry bookkeeping. The decimal system originates in Asia and was used earlier by the Indians, Persians and Arabs. Johannes Tropfke, Geschichte der Elementarmathematik, 4th edition, K. Vogel et al. (eds.), Berlin 1980. C. S. Smith, ‘A Sixteenth Century Decimal System of Weights,’ Isis, Vol. 46, 1955. In his Probierbüchlein ←148 | 149→Schreittmann had written about weights (Part 2, Chapter 3, p. 17 verso ff.): “Von den Namen dieser Gewichtlin. [About the names of these weightlings]. The weightlings are called elementlings, or atoms, Stüplin or minutlings.” Each name is bound to a property of weight, which is to be observed: “They are called elementlings because all other weights are created and composed of them as other earthly things have their origin and life from the divine elements. Atoms or Stüplin on account of the fact that they are indeed light and are like the dust that the son reveals [aufzeucht] in its shine. Minutling on account of the fact that they are in fact small and are to be reckoned to the smallest part among all weights.” The present system of the chemical elements out of which the material world is composed is implied in this passage, but not however elaborated. The elements consist of atoms. The weights, after their properties of regulation, of composition, of smallness and of lightness have been observed, were integrated according to the decimal system. When ten of these elements are put together: “I stamp them with a pointling, after 20 a second one, after 30: I stamp them with a third pointling. The third is three times as heavy as the first.” “To understand what each of their weights signify. If you want to know what each of the twenty-two weights signify you should take note that the weights are put on the cipher numbers or other common measure on the lines.” Thus, the problem of the choice between the reckoning with Indian numbers or on the lines with reckoning pennies remains undecided in 1580. Ciriacus Schreittmann, Probierbüchlin. Frembde und subtile Kunst, vormals im Truck nie gesehen, von Woge und Gewicht/ auch von aller handt Proben/ auff Ertz, Golt, Silber und andere Metall etc. Nützlich und gut allen denen so mit subtilen Künsten der Bergwerck umgehen. Frankfurt am Mayn bei Christian Egenolffs seligen Erben, in Verlegung Doct. Adami Lancieri, Doct. Johannis Cnipii Anronici Secundi und Pauli Steinmeyers 1578.

84 84. Leonardo da Pisa, Liber abaci, 1202. The close relationship between the development of the merchant class and that of arithmetic can be shown in the example of the activities of Leonardo da Pisa and Pacioli in Italy and of Widman, Köbel, Stifel, Rudolff, Adam Ries, Apian, Grammateus among others in Germany.

Fibonaci determined the rules of the purchase of goods: a single man cannot buy or take. In his book he wrote, only two can buy or sell. In his arithmetic with the unknown (cosa, thing) he made a contribution to the development of numbers theory. In the reckoning of debts one could reckon with negative numbers, thus: 17–8=9. He did not use this sign, but he mastered the theory of it. Down to the 18th century some philosophers had not believed in the existence of the negative numbers. Fibonacci had recognized a debit as the solution of an equation and in this way had taken up the reality or actuality of the negative numbers. Debts existed in actuality. Pacioli popularized but did not invent bookkeeping and double-entry book entry. In 1494 Pacioli included a chapter in his book Summa de arithmetica, which contains “il metodo veneziano”:, that is the Venetian method of double-entry bookkeeping is contained. In Venice, double-entry bookkeeping was already in use.

85 85. The book by Grammateus is entitled: Buchhaltung durch Zornal (Kaufmannsbuch) Kaps (Warenbuch) und Schuldbuch, 1549. J. Tropfke, Geschichte der Elementarmathematik, 4th edition, Vol. I, K. Vogel et al. (eds.), Berlin 1980. Further to be researched would be the role of Naples, Sicily, Calabria and Barcelona in trade with the Near East.

86 86. Mariners used Jacob’s staff at sea, to measure the height of the sun and of the stars.

87 87. Adam Ries, 1492–1559, was a master of arithmetic in Erfurt, Rezeßschreiber (Bergschreiber). Gegenschreiber, Zehnter, and Court Arithmeticus of the Elector of Saxony. He directed a famous school of arithmetic. He died in Annaberg, the important centre of mining. Jacob Köbel was a mathematician and astronomer and contributed to the development of the astrolabe. His career ←149 | 150→of studies [sein Studiengang] was linked to Copernicus. His Rechenbüchlein uf den Linien mit Rechenpfennigen and Ein neu geordnet Visierbuch appeared in 1515, his book Mit Kreiden oder Schreibfedern durch die Zifferzahl zu rechnen appeared in 1520.

88 88. J. Tropfke, Geschichte der Elementarmathematik, 4th edition, Vol. I, K. Vogel (ed.), 1980. B. L. von der Waerden, A History of Algebra, Berlin 1985. Grimm, Deutsches Wörterbuch, K. Menninger (see above). M. Stifel (Stiefel) wrote: Die Coss Christoph Rudolffs mit schönen Exempeln gebessert, Königsberg 1553/54.

89 89. F. Kluge, W. Mitzka, Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache, 20th edition, Berlin 1967. A. Schirmer, Wörterbuch der deutschen kaufmännischen Sprache, Stuttgart 1911; M. Wis, Ricerchi sopra gli italianismi nella lengua tedesca, Helsinki 1955.

90 90. F. Kluge, W. Mitzka, Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache, 20th edition, Berlin 1967. C. Battisti, G. Alessio, Dizionario etimologica italiano, Florence 1951.

91 91. R. Kaulla, Die geschichtliche Entwicklung der modernen Werttheorien (1906), Vaduz 1977, 2nd part. Id., Die Lehre vom gerechten Preis. Zeitschrift für die gesamte Staatswissenschaft, 1904. E. Schreiber, Die volkswirtschaftlichen Anschauungen der Scholastik, Jena 1913. S. Haguenauer, Das justum pretium bei Thomas Aquinas, Stuttgart 1931. J. W. Baldwin, ‘The Medieval Theories of the Just Price.’ Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, N.F., Vol. 49, Part 4., 1959.

92 92. M. Schwarz, Copia und Abschrift ab und von Matheus Schwarzen eigne Handschrift, was das Buchalten sei. Die Musterbuchhandlung mit Beispielen dem Fugger-Geschäft in Venedig entnommen, 1516–1550. Cf. Alfred Weitnauer, Venezianischer Handel der Fugger, nach Musterbuchhandlung des Matthaeus Schwarz, Munich 1931.

93 93. P. R. Beierlein (ed.), L. Ercker, Beschreibung: Allerfürnemsten Mineralischen Erzt/ unnd Berckwercksarten … (1580), Berlin 1960.

94 94. Kluge, Mitzka, id. Caput also has the meaning of beakhead, beakhead figure, ship’s nose.

95 95. Die Pegnitzschäfer , or the Order of Flowers on the Pegnitz , a society founded in 1644 by the Lord von Harsdörfer zu Nürnberg (which is known to be located on the Pegnitz) to improve the German language and to purge it of foreign words and additions. The members called themselves Pegnitz shepherds. See Brockhaus Conversations-Lexicon 1809. Also Grimm, vol. 24, p. 1704 and Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, vol. 15, p. 538, 1909.–trans.

96 96. Salamonio was a jurist, philosopher and politician and Capitano del Popolo in Florence in 1498. He came forward as an opponent of the papacy as the worldly rule in Rome. His book De Principatu appeared in 1544, cf. Mario D’Addio, L’Idea del contratto sociale dai sofisti alla riforma e il ‘De Principatu’ di Mario Salamonio, 1954.

97 97. The theory of the social contract belongs to the early period of our epoch and did not survive it. Yet, this theory is bound to the concept of natural law. See Otto Gierke, Das deutsche Genossenschaftsrecht, Vols. 3 and 4, 1954. In Vol. 4, the theory of the state and corporation down to the middle of the 17th century is the subject, that of natural law to the beginning of the 19th century. The main point of our consideration is the relationship between society and limited partner and the problem bound to it in the early period.

98 98. M. Luther, see above. T. Hobbes. Leviathan. 1651. Salamonio, see above.

99 99. M. Kaser, Das römische Privatrecht, 2nd. edition, Munich 1971. The extent of debt contracts reaches across many further areas of activity in the present than in antiquity.

100 100. We have discussed this system; see L. Krader, Dialectic of Civil Society, Assen 1976.

101 101. In the medieval Schwabenspiegel the princes too were counted in the retinue of the emperor.

102 102. The shareholder of a pit [Gewerke] was a participant in a mining enterprise. From the 15th to the 16th century some had worked, and above that profited from the labour as shareholders. Trade ←150 | 151→union was only related to the working class in the 20th century, and in fact only to a portion of it. Excepted were the non-organized workers.

103 103. Battisti, Alessio, loc. cit. These meanings of the word are also attested earlier. It is not about the meaning of the word in Italian, but rather about the conceptual field of European commerce in the capitalist period.

104 104. Kaser, Das römische Privatrecht, loc. cit., p. 302ff. The partnership [societas] is not mentioned. Only the [late] societas publicanorum, the “society” [Gesellschaft] of the tax and customs lessees [Steuer-und Zollpächter] [p. 308]. Whether the state, the Municipium, and the Colonia are corporations in the same sense than private law associations [privatrechtliche Vereine] is a problem that we won’t be dealing with.

105 105. R. Sohm, L. Mitteis, L. Wenger, Institutionen. Geschichte und System des römischen Privatrechts, Munich 1930, p. 207f., 435. The universitas (p. 199) counts as well as a corporation or association. Kaser (loc. cit., p. 304) says, the universitas is sometimes conceived of as a corporation, sometimes not.

106 106. O. Gierke, Die Genossenschaftstheorie und die deutsche Rechtsprechung (1887), Graz 1963. The joint-stock company is recognized here as a legal person and treated as a legally capable corporate body.

107 107. Strieder, Geschichte kapitalistischer Organisationsformen, loc. cit., p. 110ff, 125f.

108 108. Strieder, idem. G. Schmoller, Jahrbuch für Gesetzgebung, Verwaltung und Volkswirtschaft im Deutschen Reich, Vols. 14–17, 1890–1893. R. Ehrenberg, Das Zeitalter der Fugger, 2 volumes, Jena 1896. Philippe Dollinger, Die Hanse, 3rd edition, Stuttgart 1981. H. Kellenbenz, W. Zorn, R. Sprandel, in: Aubin, Zorn, Handbuch der deutschen Wirtschaft- und Sozialgeschichte, op. cit., 1971.

109 109. Dollinger, Die Hanse, loc. cit.

110 110. C. M. Cipolla, Before the Industrial Revolution. European Society and Economy 1000–1700, London 1976.

111 111. Strieder, Organisationsformen, loc. cit. Dollinger (Die Hanse, 1981) cited single cases of the formation of consortiums; loc. cit., Second Part. The consortiums appear not to have lasted long.

112 112. R. Ehrenberg, Das Zeitalter der Fugger, vol. I, Jena 1896.

113 113. J. Strieder, Organisationsformen, loc. cit., p. 142ff. Strieder had shown that this was about a corporation of Jihlavan cloth makers, which was established by means of capital investment. It is an early form of the capitalist company or society; it is probable that a company established in the 18th century was an authentic joint-stock company. The iron trade company was the active moment, to which the cloth companies reacted, driven by necessity to relinquish their previous guild-like treatment.

114 114. P. Mantoux, La révolution industrielle, Paris 1973. In Frankfurt am Main the system of prohibition was continued into the middle of the 19th century. On account of the locksmiths the iron traders were not permitted to sell any chains for roping, trees, spans, springs and ships, further for wheel-headed nails, shackles, window frames and tap wrenches; for the benefit of knifesmiths and swordsmiths they were not allowed to sell swords, sabers, rapiers, and blades; for the benefit of the gunsmiths no guns; for the girdle makers no spurs, riding sticks, stirrups and currycombs. J. Kulischer, Allgemeine Wirtschaftsgeschichte, 1958, vol. II, p. 139. Other prohibitions in Schoenlank, von der Goltz, Kellenbenz (see above).

115 115. Strieder, Organisationsformen, loc. cit., 3rd book, chapter I.

116 116. H. Kellenbenz, in: Aubin, Zorn, Handbuch …, chapter 18.

117 117. R. Ehrenberg, Das Zeitalter der Fugger, Vol. I, Jena 1896.

←151 | 152→

118 118. Ehrenberg, loc. cit. J. Strieder, Organisationsformen. loc. cit., 3rd book, 2nd chapter. J. Kulischer, Allgemeine Wirtschaftsgeschichte, Vol. 2, chapter 16. H. Kellenbenz, in: Aubin, Zorn, ibid., chapter 18.

119 119. W. Sombart, Das Wirtschaftleben im Zeitalter des Frühkapitalismus. Der moderne Kapitalismus, Vol. 2, 1. Half volume, Berlin 1969, chapter 4.