As the opening pages of the book explain, the City of Coventry claimed power under its charter to set up what they call companies or fellowships, what we standardly call ‘guilds’. There had been one for silkweavers and worsted weavers, but in 1703 they decided (it’s said) that the mix was having the effect of allowing unskilled people to practice one or another form of weaving as they pleased, which was debasing the quality and reputation of the local product – a very standard concern for the period, and one of the characteristic objects of early industrial regulation. So they decided to split the two companies, to ensure that practitioners are appropriately trained. (London barbers and surgeons split in the mid-eighteenth century for an analogous reason.) The account book gives the company’s accounts year by year (some years are missing), from 1704 through its early years as a trade society, through its transmogrification into a probably partly political dining club, and then into a purely social club; the book was completed in 1983 … more
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