Page:Economic Development in Denmark Before and During the World War.djvu/25

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9
THE GUILD SYSTEM

were latent germs of discontent which might rapidly develop if circumstances permitted. Indeed, all the methods now known to strikers were already in use. It was comparatively easy to prevent masters from getting workmen, and even whole towns were sometimes 'boycotted' (geschimpft), because they had in some way incurred the disfavour of the journeymen.

But many excellent customs originated by the guilds of the Middle Ages still existed. The problem of the labour market, which in our day presents so many difficulties, was then easily and naturally solved by the journeymen themselves. If no work could be provided for the journeyman in a new town to which he went, he was given food and shelter and money enough to live on until he reached the next town. This was a kind of primitive unemployment insurance. Of the guild as such, it may be said that it upheld the modern principle of the right to work. Every master had his own little group of customers and was thus protected against too sharp competition on the part of his guild fellows.

Social Developments of the Nineteenth Century

It was primitive, homogeneous society that existed in Denmark, as in many other countries, in the eighteenth century; but the enormous development which took place in the next century led to many changes. As early as the last decade of the eighteenth century the population had begun rapidly to increase, and it continued to do so throughout the nineteenth century. In 1801 the total population of Denmark was 929,000; in 1901 it was 2,450,000. The great technical development of both agriculture and industry provided a better living and even a fuller and easier life in 1901 for a population three times as large as that of a hundred years before.

But, meanwhile, the character of the community had completely changed. In the rural districts a large class of