Rehabilitating the Guilds: A Reply

8 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2008

See all articles by Sheilagh Ogilvie

Sheilagh Ogilvie

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)


This article examines Epstein's attempt to rehabilitate pre-modern craft guilds by criticizing my German case study. It demonstrates that his criticisms are baseless and his assertions about European guilds unsupported. Long survival does not establish the efficiency or aggregate economic benefits of any institution. Contrary to rehabilitation views, craft guilds adversely affected quality, skills, and innovation. Guild rent-seeking imposed dead weight losses on the economy and generated no demonstrable positive externalities. Industry flourished where guilds decayed. Despite impairing efficiency, guilds persisted because they redistributed resources to powerful groups. The rehabilitation view of guilds is theoretically contradictory and empirically untenable.

Suggested Citation

Ogilvie, Sheilagh, Rehabilitating the Guilds: A Reply. Economic History Review, Vol. 61, Issue 1, pp. 175-182, February 2008. Available at SSRN: or

Sheilagh Ogilvie (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Economics ( email )

Austin Robinson Building
Sidgwick Avenue
Cambridge, CB3 9DD
United Kingdom
44-1223-335200 (Phone)
44-1223-335475 (Fax)


CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics

Under construction: SSRN citations while be offline until July when we will launch a brand new and improved citations service, check here for more details.

For more information