Hans Christian Andersen's father was not a member of
a guild, which hurt his position in his craft.
He was not allowed to have apprentices.
A guild, sometimes spelled gild, is an association of
craftsmen or merchants. They would get together for mutual
aid and protection and to insure their their professional
interests. In Europe, Guilds flourished from the 11th
century and began to decline in 16th century. By the
end of Andersen's life, at the end of the 19th century,
guilds had been abolished. During their heyday they formed
a vital part of the economic and social culture.
There were two main types of guilds in medieval Europe:
merchant guilds or craft guilds. Merchant guilds were
associations based on the trade of various goods, whereas
craft guilds were occupational associations that usually
comprised all the craftsmen in a particular type of skill,
for example weavers, metal smiths, blacksmiths, bakers,
butchers, leather workers, soap makers, and of course
shoemakers, and also fullers in the wool trade, of the
masons, architects etc.
Guild signs from the 19th century
by S. Mellor
The decline of mercantile guilds was perhaps to increase
wealth of a few merchants and the formation of companies.
Wealthy merchants become capitalistic entrepreneurs and
formed companies, thereby making merchant guilds less
important. The craft guilds, on the other hand, saw their
doom with the introduction of new technology. Factories
meant products could be made faster and cheaper.
Nevertheless, Guilds played an important roll in Andersen's
life and are reflected in several of his stories