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The Abolition of the Guilds during the French Revolution

Liana Vardi
French Historical Studies
Vol. 15, No. 4 (Autumn, 1988), pp. 704-717
Published by: Duke University Press
DOI: 10.2307/286554
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/286554
Page Count: 14
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The Abolition of the Guilds during the French Revolution
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Abstract

The French guild system, despite the agitation surrounding its abolition and reinstatement in 1774-76, was economically moribund by the 18th century. The most dynamic branches of industry had moved to the countryside, leaving the towns to produce luxury goods or small artisanal wares. If guilds remained buoyant in some places, it was because merchants and artisans were able to use them to their own advantage, often subverting their stated purpose. The members of the National Assembly did not retain the guild system because of its economic vitality after its suggested abolition on 4 August 1789. They identified it, rather, with other bodies whose privileges they wished to suppress but which proved too difficult to dismantle as yet. The guilds would survive until March 1791. In the intervening period, they were in disarray, with journeymen petitioning for their abolition. When the Assembly finally eradicated them, it was with full consciousness that they were anachronistic and that the time had come to align legislation with economic realities.

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