Policing the guilds

The implementation of guild reforms during Danish absolutism

Jorgen Miihrmann-Lund

One of the key elements of early modern state building was an intensified regulation of social life by means of laws and ordinances. In the early modern states and societies of France, Germany, and Scandinavia, this regulation was known as ‘police’ (police in French, Policey in German, and politic in Scandinavian languages). The term did not refer to policemen, but to the ordering of primarily urban life by so-called police ordinances and the topics this legislation concerned everything from Sabbath keeping, luxury and extravagance, vagrancy and begging, public health and sanitation, maintenance of roads, censorship, guilds and occupations, commerce, and so on.1

The issuing of police ordinances by the early modern states has traditionally been seen as a top-down process of ‘social disciplining.’ The concept was invented by Gerhard Oestreich in 1969 and has been defined by legal historian Karl Härter as ‘a lasting change of social attitudes and forms of behaviour of all groups within society, in accordance with authoritarian norms.’ As a novelty, society was regulated to increase the power of the state, whereas traditional social control merely consisted of reactions to behaviour already considered deviant by society.2

Peter Blickle also emphasised the importance of police ordinances in the state building process but argued that they were the result of the demands of the subjects to the state and not the opposite. According to Blickle, the contemporary term ‘good police’ referred to the popularity of the police ordinances. Police regulation began in medieval town and village communes and was taken over by the early modern state, as local communities became unable to deal with new problems such as vagrancy, rising prices, and status consumption.5 Thus, in Blickle’s view, the emergence of police regulation should solely be seen as an example of state building from below.

However, during absolutism, the idea to steer society in order to increase the power of the state can be seen in contemporary police theories.4 We also see the establishment of police forces to enforce these policies in this period. Nevertheless, Achim Landwehr has proposed substituting the term ‘social disciplining’ by ‘implementation,’ because in practice the enforcement was

Policing the guilds 147 adapted to the social norms of local societies, as case studies of André Holenstein, Andrea Iseli, and myself show.5

The argument of these studies is that the enforcement of specific police ordinances should be studied as a more complex interaction between lawmakers, local authorities, and subjects, than is suggested in the theory of social disciplining or Blickle’s theory of ‘good police’ as a demand ‘from below.’ The case of implementation presented in this chapter is the police regulation of the guilds during early Danish absolutism with a specific focus on the attempt to abolish the initiation rite of the journeyman joiners called ‘the planing.’ I have chosen this case, because it contains not only typical elements of top-down social disciplining as well as impulses ‘from below’ but also pressure from outside the state in the form of the norms of the transnational guild community.

The case also raises the question of using too simplified a model of either state building ‘from above’ or ‘from below.’ Thus, in this case, the authorities consisted of competing institutions such as the local elite in the Copenhagen city council and the new royal police authority established in 1682. I argue that the new police force should be seen not only as a way to disempower local elites such as the city council but also as an alternative and more accessible channel of influence for the commoners. The level of ‘below’ was also layered. On the one hand, the partly successful resistance against the absolutist guild reforms of some, but not all, masters and aidermen in alliance with the German guild association could be seen as an example of influencing state building from below. On the other hand, I also show how the guild policies of the state were motivated by grievances from the poor below the guilds. In this perspective, the guilds were elitist organisations that impoverished the lower classes of the city by driving up the prices of their products and excluding the poor from their crafts. The chapter begins with an outline of the historical background, because the organisation and regulation of guilds differed a lot in early modern Europe.

Guild regulation before absolutism

In the Danish sources, the concept of the ‘burgher’ as a distinct estate different from the peasants of the countryside emerged around 1400. This coincides with the establishment of the trade and craft privileges of the market towns. At this time, artisans began to specialise in the market towns and only the most basic crafts were permitted in the countryside. To promote the urban economy, the town councils also sanctioned the formation of craft guilds by issuing ordinances for guilds of journeymen and masters. The ordinances sanctioned the monopoly of the guild and sought to minimise competition with regulations about the access to the guild, the relationship between masters, journeymen, and apprentices and the purchase of materials.6 Although state interference was present from the start, this type of organisation corresponds with Peter Blickle’s notion of communalism as a community organised ‘from below’ and based upon equality.7

At the same time, artisans were excluded from political power. The town law of Eric of Pomerania from 1422 stated that only merchants and not artisans could become members of the town council. After a period of political unrest in the 1440s, other ordinances stated that the guilds should be under the control of the town council and any form of resistance was forbidden. The town council was also empowered to dissolve guilds thought to be of no use or harm to their towns.8

In the 16th century, the guilds began to be accused of driving up prices by limiting the number of members. As early as 1526, King Frederick I abolished all guilds, because commoners had complained about rising prices, but his ordinance had no effect. The word ‘police’ entered the Danish language in this period as a concept for this type of policy. In the Kolding recess of 1558, the town councils were ordered to maintain ‘good order and police’ so that each market town had good artisans and necessary goods would be available to the inhabitants of the country at reasonable prices.9 The obligation of the authorities to provision the urban markets with food and other necessities at a just price has been termed the ‘moral economy’ by the English historian E.P. Thompson. Such complaints were often the cause of riots.10

The reign of Christian IV (1588-1648) was characterised by an enormous issue of police ordinances with approximately 40 new ordinances each year in the period from 1620 to 1640. His many ordinances against excessive consumption and other unchristian vices have been seen as a typical example of social disciplining.” Christian IV is also known for his hostile policy towards the guilds. In 1613, the king suspended all the previous guild ordinances because of rising prices and costs for entering the guilds, but also to stop excessive drinking and feasting in the guilds. However, in 1621, he allowed the masters of each trade to work out some new rules about journeymen and apprentices, but another ordinance from 1622 stipulated that it would not be allowed to exclude journeymen without a certificate of birth and apprenticeship or to demand a masterpiece.12 In reality, the new ordinances were not enforced, as was the case with many other police ordinances. This phenomenon of systematic ‘non-enforcement’ has been noted by Jurgen Schlumbohm as typical of the early modern state.13

In the case of the joiners’ guild, corruption played a major role. The first guild was formed in Copenhagen in 1554, where nine joiners asked the city council for a guild ordinance to protect their income from competition. The ordinance allowed the guild to confiscate furniture sold by outsiders. Every third year, the town council should appoint a new aiderman out of three candidates chosen by the other masters. A member of the town council should also be present at the two annual meetings of the guild. As

Policing the guilds 149 an internal social disciplining, there were fines for behaving badly at the meetings and for not going to church on Sundays. To enter the guild, a journeyman should have learned the trade for 3 years and not be born out of wedlock. After a test year at a master, he should present a masterpiece consisting of a table, a cupboard, and a chest. He should swear an oath of allegiance to the King, the town council, and the aiderman and pay for a feast in the guild. Conflicts between guild brothers should be settled inside the guild and not in the courts. The moral economy of the guild consisted of the obligation to make good furniture at a reasonable price, not to work more or to employ more journeymen than other masters and only to buy materials collectively.14

In accordance with the guild ordinances of Christian IV, the guild received a new ordinance in 1622, where anyone was allowed to enter the guild without having to show a birth certificate or deliver a masterpiece.15 This ordinance was not enforced, probably because the accounts of the joiners frequently note payments to the town council member in charge of controlling the guild. Finally, in 1653, the guild had Frederick III confirm a new ordinance that restored their old rights. In addition, the new guild ordinance sanctioned a new set of customs from Germany regulating the life of the wandering journeymen.16

The arrival of the ‘Ziinft’

The customs known as ‘Handwerksgewohnheit’ (German: Artisans’ customs) in German and in Danish the ‘Ziinft’ (German: Guild) are thought to have entered Denmark during the many construction works of Christian IV that demanded more skilled artisans from Germany. The rituals were secret but have been described by the authorities trying to abolish them and in a few memoirs from the 19th century.17

When a journeyman came to a new town, he should go to the inn of the journeymen in the guild house marked by the sign of the guild and knock on the door in a certain way. He should stand in a certain position, have his coat buttoned with a certain number of buttons, give a certain handshake, and when recite a greeting in German, the ‘Grussen,’ a number of answers in rhyme to certain questions in a certain row. At first, he received a ‘Geschenk’ (German: Gift) of money by the aiderman of the journeyman guild, was offered a drink in a ceremonial cup called ‘the welcome.’ Then he was offered to the masters of the guild, beginning with the oldest and so on. The journeymen were obliged to attend the meetings of the journeyman guild and denounce violations of its rules that would be taken out of the guild chest and solemnly read aloud. While the chest was open, rude behaviour would be punished with a fine.

To become ‘honest’ journeymen, apprentices had to go through an initiation rite. The initiation rite of the joiners was called ‘the planing’ (Danish: Behovling; German: Hofelung). The unplaned apprentice wascalled the ‘Kuhschlussel’ (cow’s key). The ceremony would be conducted by four journeymen, the ‘Pfaff’ (German: Pope), the ‘Klöckner’ (German: Bellringer), and two ‘Pathen’ (German: Godfathers), in the guild house in front of all the households of the masters, men, and women. At first, the ‘Kuhschlussel’ would be asked to wipe out with his hair a sign in the shape of a Q called the ‘Kuhschwanz’ (German: Cow’s tail) marked on a table with chalk. He should wipe out the sign with a hand saying that he had only learnt to work with his hands. Then the ‘Pfaff’ would deliver a long sermon consisting of a part about the rude life of the apprentice, a part about the art of architecture, and a part about the joys of the wandering journeyman.18 Then the journeyman-to-be would be stretched out on a bench and worked by rhe four journeymen with giant tools of wood, as though he was a raw piece of timber to be made into a column. When the Pfaff was about to plane the young man, he would ask the young women of the audience, if he should spare the ‘knot’ of the young man. After the planing, the candidate had to jump up and push a giant ruler out of the hands of one the godfathers, three times to the right for the master, the mistress, and the beautiful girls and a fourth time to the left for the whores. As a final transition from boy to man, he received the last slap on his face and a printed version of the Grussen.

As a specialised craft in need of German journeymen, the joiners’ guilds were the first to adopt the ‘Ziinft.’ It is mentioned in 1636 and was sanctioned by the authorities in the guild ordinance of 1653 and in 1654 in an ordinance for the journeyman guild. The right to plane properly gave the two guilds a considerable advantage. In 1649, the guild in Helsingor had obtained the right to plane by buying a set of rules from the guild in the German town of Stralsund, but when the guild in Helsingor bought a copy of their guild ordinance in 1662, these rules were not included. During a trial between the two guilds to be settled by the Copenhagen guild, the Helsingborg guild was declared to be ‘in Verruf’ (German: Dishonest) for making their own planing ritual.19

Other guilds, but not all, adopted similar initiation rites from Germany such as the ‘biting of nails’ of the smiths, the ‘crowning’ of the tanners, and the ‘deposition’ of the bookbinders.20 Thus, the Danish guild subjected themselves to the rules of a transnational community that shared norms and customs across of the Holy Roman Empire and Scandinavia. This was necessary to attract German journeymen with the latest knowhow of the trade and in line with the mercantilist policies of the state to develop the urban economy which is probably why the guilds were tolerated in the first place.

There are parallels between the ‘Ziinft’ of the guilds and the refinement of elite manners in the same period as described by Norbert Elias in his theory of the ‘civilising process.’21 Thus today, the term ‘unplaned’ (Danish: Ubehovlet) means rude or uncivilised. The universities even borrowed the planing ceremony for the ‘rus’-ceremonies of the new students.22 Another

Policing the guilds 151 parallel to the wanderings of the journeymen would be the ‘grand tours’ of young noblemen who would learn refined manners at foreign courts, but would also be expected to participate in excessive behaviour among their peers of young men.23 In a similar way, the ‘Ziinft’ created a social distinction between the ‘honest’ male journeyman and those ‘below,’ but the journeymen also came to form a social group distinct to and often in conflict with the masters. At the end of the 17th century, the elite would also disapprove of the planing ceremony as deviant popular culture full of blasphemy and sexual references. As Peter Burke and Robert Muchembled have argued, the civilising process created a greater divide between popular and elite culture.24

The absolutist guild reforms

After the introduction of absolutism in 1660, abolishing the guilds was considered, because the jurisdictional autonomy of the guilds was incompatible with the new constitution. Instead, the chancellery and later the department of commerce worked out 23 new and more standardised guild ordinances between 1668 and 1681, but the changes were minor. The joiners did not receive a new ordinance, but a draft shows that the planing ceremony would still be allowed.25

However, in 1681, King Christian V decided to appoint a police commission to work out a complete set of police ordinances for all of Denmark and Norway, but to focus especially on the growth of the capital Copenhagen due to the importance of the capital to the crown. Four of the 11 commissioners came from the Copenhagen city council. The commissioners were instructed to be secret about their work and to be patient in their negotiations with commoners, explaining to them that the new ordinances would be in their own interest in the long run.26 In other words, this was clearly a policy of social disciplining. In the Danish Law issued in 1683, a paragraph also stated that all publications concerning the police should be censored.27 However, the police commission also wanted input ‘from below’ and had the king issue an ordinance with a call-out for petitions concerning the improvement of the police.28 In this way, the absolutist state sought to avoid public debates and get input from below in a more controlled way.

The ordering of the guilds was the first priority for the police commission. The first police ordinance to be issued in 1681 was a general ordinance about the guilds in Denmark and Norway. The ordinance abolished all the ‘self-made’ guild ordinances issued contrary to the guild legislation of Christian IV, because artisans should not waste money or time on extravagances. Any citizen of a town, including those born out of wedlock, should be allowed to enter the guilds for a small fee. To become a master, a journeyman should only present his masterpiece at the town hall. He would no longer have to travel abroad or give a feast in the guild. Theguilds were forbidden to meet without the written consent of the town council and the meetings should be supervised by different councillors to avoid corruption of permanent ‘patrons.’ Masters would be allowed to compete with others in terms of prices and the number of journeymen. Finally, the ordinance abolished the journeyman guilds and new ‘Ziinft’-customs such as ‘blue Mondays’ and the journeyman inn. Instead, the aiderman should help newly arrived journeymen to find employment at the masters of their choice.29 In reality, this liberal ordinance would mean the end of the guilds.

In addition, an ordinance about journeymen and apprentices was issued in 1682. Journeymen were not allowed to leave their master before the end of their term of employment. They were also not allowed to demand a feast on their arrival in accordance with the ‘Ziinft’ or to complain at all about the food they were offered. The masters were empowered to fine those who stayed out after the curfew at 9 pm. during winters and 10 pm. in the summertime. Finally, the ordinance abolished all the ‘self-made’ rules of the journeyman guilds.30 The same year, the police commission also had the king issue a decree against the ceremony of the moving of the guild sign to a new journeyman inn around Shrovetide to prevent excesses and ‘the crowding of the common man.’31 Around this time, the absolutist state began to worry about riots in the capital because of the proximity to the kings’ person. In 1688, the police commissioner complained about tumultuous crowds of journeymen and servants outside the churches during services and was authorised to disperse such crowds with the aid of the military. In 1695, it was forbidden to carry hammers outside building sites, because groups of bricklayer journeymen had used them as weapons in the streets during their nightly benders.32 The commoners of the capital were increasingly seen as a threat to state security.

Between 1682 and 1696, the police commission also worked out separate ordinances for 41 guilds in the same repressive spirit.33 The joiners received their new ordinance on the 4th November 1682. To enforce the monopoly of the guild, the aiderman and four masters were allowed to chase joiners working outside the guild four times a year, but with the assistance of the municipal bailiffs (Danish: Underfogeder). The city council could appoint aidermen of their choosing if they did not like the three candidates chosen by the masters. Apprentices should learn for 3 years to be followed by three more years as a journeyman and one trial year at a master before delivering their masterpiece. Most importantly, the new ordinance abolished the planing and other old customs.34

Repression and resistance

As stated in the Danish Law from 1683, the town councils should enforce the new police ordinances.35 In Copenhagen, the instruction of the police commission suggested that because of the large size of the city council, a

Policing the guilds 153 councillor should be responsible for rhe police.36 A similar model existed in Stockholm, where a special ‘police burgomaster’ had been appointed in 1671.37 However, as pointed out by the police commission, the city council had no authority in the other jurisdictions of the capital such as the military ones.38 On the 12th December 1682, King Christian V solved this problem by appointing one of his trusted men, Claus Rasch, to be police commissioner in Copenhagen. The creation of police forces in absolutist states has been interpreted as a way of disempowering urban elites. Danish police historian Henrik Stevnsborg argues that the control of the guilds became much stricter, because Claus Rasch was not part of the urban elite.39 He is also known for his raids against assemblies of journeymen and confiscation of their ritual items.40 In 1685, it was also his idea to allow the poor to work as ‘free masters’ outside the guilds, as long as they worked alone. In this way, they would not burden the poor relief. Despite this utilitarian argument, he came to act as spokesman for poor widows and retired soldiers, he had witnessed being harassed by the guilds during inquisitions for violation of their monopolies, and the police were obliged to assist.41 As was the case in Paris, the new police authority became a more direct channel of communication ‘from below’ to the king.42

A conflict between the joiners’ guild and the city council also shows that the guild also trusted the new police more than the traditional urban elite. In the summer of 1683, the joiners’ guild had chosen three candidates to succeed the former aiderman, Peder Rasmussen, but the city council had yet not appointed any of them. The favourite was the charismatic master, Johan Stenbuk, who later became the leader of resistance against the new guild reforms. Stenbuk and the two other candidates now requested the police commissioner for assistance in a hunt for joiners working outside the guild. Claus Rasch had been instructed to use the four municipal bailiffs as his deputies.43 Accordingly, the bailiff Hans Hansen was ordered by the police commissioner to follow the three masters on the hunt, where he arrested four journeymen and sold them to the military as vagrants, when they could not pay their fines. However, this resulted in a conflict of competence with the city council, when the three masters and the bailiff were then summoned the city council court by the president of the castle court, Niels Simonsen, for breaking into his house and confiscating window frames and other illegal works.

At the trial, the city council declared the hunt to be unlawful, because the guild had not directed their request to the city council as the traditional authority over the guilds. The court sentenced the aiderman, Peder Rasmussen, to pay damages to the journeymen and fined Hans Hansen for acting without the consent of the city council as his employer. Johan Stenbuk and the two other masters were fined for insulting the city council in a plea. During a heated moment in court, Stenbuk was also thrown in jail for disrespecting the president of the city council, the university professor Peder Resen. Stenbuk had threatened to complain to the king andthrown back his neck to show his contempt for the president. When Resen changed the penalty to a fine, Stenbuk refused to leave jail, until his honour had been restored. To do so, he procured statements from the council of 32 citizens and the city guard where he had served during the Swedish siege in 1659. To get a statement from the guild, he had the aiderman, Peder Rasmussen, trick the city council into permitting a guild meeting about purchase of ebony, but in reality was about the statement. For this offence, Rasmussen and Stenbuk received additional fines. In the end, the city council lost the cases at the supreme court on grounds that the enforcement of guild ordinances was now a police matter.44

In 1687, the city council complained to the king about the police commissioner violating their area of competence in different matters such as the guilds. Here it was stated that guilds were a matter of police, but that the police commissioner should not meddle with matters of justice such as thefts, battery, or prostitution that belonged to the proper courts. The conflict was mainly about the income from the administration such as bribes or fines.45

Following this affair, the city council would not choose any of three candidates elected by the guild for their aiderman and instead appointed Jochum Waltz who represented a minority of rich masters that were in favour of the guild reforms. Waltz sold all the silverware of the guild to cover the expenses of the trials. He also cleverly befriended the police commissioner who was given several gifts at the expense of the guild such as cane and a table. In 1686, the city council felt pressured by ‘the majority of the votes’ to appoint Johan Stenbuk as new aiderman. He saw it as his main task to save the guild by restoring the Ziinft. However, Waltz owned the guild house and would not obey Stenbuk’s order to send newly arrived journeymen around to the masters according to the custom. When a master complained to the police commissioner about having a journeyman removed by Stenbuk for not being hired according to custom, the journeyman was brought back to the master by the police. This case caused Johan Stenbuk to send a petition to the king, where he not only complained about Waltz, bur also did the unthinkable of asking the king to repeal his guild ordinances. He protested against the free masters and wanted back the freedom of assembly, jurisdictional autonomy, and the planing ceremony, although he was willing to skip the blasphemous and indecent parts of it, such as the sermon and the appeal for the knot. As a symbolic gesture of insubordination, he had the audacity to enclose the ordinance from 1681.

The statement of the police commissioner about this petition contains a detailed description of the artisans’ customs. Rasch thinks it is unfair that poor Danish artisans should learn a long greeting in German and submit themselves to other absurd customs. Again we see the police commissioner present himself as a spokesman for the poor. Rasch thinks that Stenbuk is a traitor for defending ordinances from the German towns in

Policing the guilds 155 contempt of the laws of his own country. Stenbuk is described as a fanatic demagogue: ‘this man (...) is capable of mobilising a thousand others to madness and insubordination.’ Rasch writes that he is running around town with his comrades and has to be stopped, before the other guilds join his cause. When Rasch tried to calm him down, he is said to have answered: ‘he (...) had only one life, he wanted to speak for the people, yes, if it came to that, he would die for the people.’ Because such rebellious behaviour could not be accepted, Stenbuk was deposed as aiderman and was excluded from the guild. This verdict was changed to imprisonment, when he insulted the city council in another petition. In 1688, the king wanted to pardon him and allow him back in the guild, if he would undertake to abstain from further disturbances. This he would not and stayed in jail until 1699, when the king had him released without conditions.46

The case is interesting as a testimony of resistance in what is considered the most absolutist state in Europe at the time. In the same stubborn manner, Danish tenant peasants would fight for traditional rights against powerful manorial lords in corvée conflicts.47 However, at first sight, the suppression of the joiners’ guild might be seen as a successful example of social disciplining, if we disregard the impulses from the illegal artisans being harassed by the guild.

Negotiation and compromise

Stenbuk was right. The absolutist guild policy proved fatal to the joiners’ guild. In 1684, the Danish journeymen complained about being bullied by their German colleagues who would give the Danes nicknames and not sit at the same table, because they were unplaned. The police commissioner advised the king to ordain an alternative ritual, where the aiderman should give the boy his last slap in the face and afterwards a sword to symbolise his entry into manhood. In this way, Rasch argued the king could not only show his contempt for unlawful initiation rites, but even ordain one for the rest of the world to observe. However, the king would follow the advice of the police commission to issue an ordinance against being planed abroad and for despising unplaned journeymen.48

In reality, social disciplining had no effect outside the king’s realm. In the period from 1683 to 1686, the number of joiner journeymen fell from 85 to 20, as Copenhagen became a ‘dishonest’ city in the eyes of the German guilds.49 An extreme example of the pressure from abroad was the case of the hatmaker, Jakob Skalhorn. In 1681, he was declared ‘dishonest’ by the German hatmaker guilds for having agreed to train eight boys born out of wedlock for the city orphanage in violation of a guild ordinance the Copenhagen hatmakers had bought in Germany. The guild in Lübeck was later gracious to change the verdict to a large fine to be paid to eight German guilds.50

In the end, the king gave in to the pressure from the German guild community. In 1695, the joiner’s guild paid the police commissioner as their ‘patron’ to raise the problem before the king, who gave oral permission for a police-supervised planing ritual. During the 18th century, the joiner’s guilds in most Danish towns were allowed to plane, but very discretely and as an act of grace, so that the king did not lose face. In 1714, King Frederick IV proposed to repopulate the capital after a plague by abolishing the guilds. However, the police commission argued that the abolishment of the monopoly of the guilds would lead to a more harmful state of ‘polypoly,’ where the capital would be filled with unskilled and poor workers who would be impossible to rule without aidermen as channels of communication and information.51

The ‘Ziinft’ returned with full force in the 18th century but died out at the end of the century due to internal conflicts between masters and journeymen and among the journeymen. Thus, the planing ceremony was formalised again in 1738, when pietist journeymen complained about the return of indecent and blasphemous elements. After major strikes in 1781 and 1794, the planing and other ‘raw and savage customs of the past’ were forbidden again in 1800.52 However, as the Norwegian author Ludvig Holberg had wisely characterised the journeymen in 1750: ‘they are the only members of society that cannot be repressed. Other subjects are bound to one place which they cannot leave without difficulty, but journeymen have no permanent place of residence, home or fatherland.’53

A similar development took place in other states. The initiation rites of the guilds were forbidden several times in the German states and the whole empire in 1731, but with no more effect than in Denmark. In Sweden, the planing ceremony was forbidden in 1720 on grounds that it was too expensive for the apprentices, but as late as 1763 the joiners’ guild in Enkoping acquired a new set of tools for this ceremony.54

Concluding remarks

As stated in the beginning, there are several typical traits of social disciplining in the police regulation of the guilds by Danish kings in the early modern period. First of all, the urban elites as well as the absolutist kings saw the guilds as possible platforms of resistance and disorder. This is why their freedom of assembly was restricted and public manifestations such as the moving of the sign were forbidden. After the introduction of absolutism, their self-made laws and jurisdictional autonomy as states within the state could not be tolerated constitutionally. There was also a growing divide between elite and popular culture despite the initial resemblance of the initiation rites of the elites and the guild marking the transition from the uncivilised boy to the civilised or ‘honest’ man.

This is clearly seen in the police commissioners’ descriptions of customs such as the planing ritual as absurd. However, even Johan Stenbuk

Policing the guilds 157 suggested removing the blasphemous and indecent parts of the ritual and in 1737, they were forbidden again at the request of journeymen. Thus, the tendency towards a stricter societal discipline was not only initiated ‘from above’ by the king. In a similar way, the many luxury ordinances of the 17th century could be seen as a response to Christian movements against luxury among peasants and the lower nobility.55

However, the regulation of the guilds should mainly be seen in the light of the mercantile goal of ‘good police’ to provision the market with the necessary goods of good quality and reasonable price and secure citizens a reasonable income at the same time. This moral economy was also thought to benefit the state in terms of an increase in taxes and a decrease in poor relief. The anti-guild policies were mainly motivated by complaints from commoners about rising prices and the exclusiveness of the guilds. From this perspective, the guilds could be seen as part of the urban elite with close ties to the municipal authorities which hampered the enforcement of the royal policies.

The creation of a police force to enforce the absolutist guild reforms has been seen as a turning point towards more effective social disciplining. The police commissioner did indeed act as the king’s loyal servant in his repression of the artisans’ customs, but also as an ally in a conflict with the city council and a mediator between the guild and the king in bringing about a compromise about the planing ceremony.

The case of the return of the ‘Ziinft’ is interesting, because it was not only the result of pressure ‘from below,’ but also ‘from outside,’ in this case a transnational guild culture. It is important to remember that state building was not only a result of conflicts and compromises within the state but also was influenced by forces outside the state.

Primary sources

Rigsarkivet (RA (Denmark))

Danske kancelli. Indlaeg til sjtellandske tegnelser 1686.

Danske kancelli. Indlaeg til sjaellandske registre 1682-1685.

Danske kancelli. Kancelliekspeditioner gennem kongens eget kammer 1680-1681.

Danske Kancelli. Henlagte sager 1713-1715.

Hojesteret. Domprotokol 1683-1684.

Kobenhavns Stadsarkiv (KSA)

Politikommissionen, kopibog 1681-1684.

Kobenhavns magistral, radstueprotokol 1683-1685.


Napoli 2003, pp. 20-63; Simon 2004, pp. 111-120; Iseli 2009, pp. 14-114;

Kotkas 2014, pp. 1-3.

Oestreich 1969; Härter 1999, p. 42.

Blickle 2008, pp. 221-243.

Foucault 2008, pp. 337-391; Simon 2004; Kotkas 2014.

Landwehr 1999; Holenstein 2003; Iseli 2003, Mührmann-Lund 2016a.

Poulsen 2009; Krongaard Kristensen & Poulsen 2016, pp. 385-393.

Blickle 2008, pp. 62-88.

Degn & Dübeck 1983, p. 193; Krongaard Kristensen & Poulsen 2016, pp. 292-293.

Kolding recess of 13/12 1558, § 56. Secher 1887, p. 38.

Thompson 1971; Mührmann-Lund 2016b.

Tamm 1999; Tamm 2008, p. 3.

Degn & Dübeck 1983, pp. 194-197.

Schlumbohm 1997.

Berg 1904, pp. 32-36.

Berg 1904, pp. 46-51.

Berg 1904, pp. 52-53; Karmark 1989, pp. 39-40.

The following is based on Berg 1904, pp. 71-87; Henningsen 1960, pp. 21-24; Karmark 1989, pp. 14-31.

Warthoe Hansen 1984. Publication of the planing speech of the Aarhus guild from 1724 in the original German language and a Danish translation.

Berg 1904, p. 80.

Henningsen 1960, pp. 16-38.

Elias 2000 (1939).

Berg 1904, p. 83.

Stannek 2001, pp. 215-243.

Muchembled 1990; Burke 2009 (1978).

Nyrop 1909, pp. 9-112. Berg 1904, p. 89. Degn & Dübeck 1983, pp. 197-209.

Dübeck 1983; RA (Denmark), Danske Kancelli, kancelliekspeditioner gen-nem kongens eget kammer 1680-1681, nr. 52, Instruktion af 29.10.1681. KSA, Kobenhavns magistral, Politikommissionens kopibog 1681-1684. Betamkning af 12/12 1681 om bl.a. politikommissionens overordnede mal. Danske Lov af 1683, § 2-21-2.

RA (Denmark), Danske kancelli, Incllreg til sjiellandske registre 1683, nr. 50. Indlteg til forordning af 24/2 1683 om nvis som om politien allerede pit tryk er udgäet eller fremdeles skal udgä. Politikommissionens betrenkning af 29/1


Schous Forordninger. Fr. af 23 Dec. 1681 Om Laugene udi Kiobstiederne i Danmark og Norge.

Schous Forordninger. Fr. af 6. maj 1682. Om Haandverks-Svende og Drenge i Kiabstederne i Danmark og Norge.

Forbud mod Fastelavnsloben af 6. februar 1682. Nielsen 1884, p. 798; Nielsen 1889, p. 273.

Forbud af 5. maj 1688 og 9. februar 1695. Nielsen 1886, p. 226 & 450;

Nielsen 1889, pp. 237-238.

Nyrop 1909, pp. 123-128.

Snedkerartikler af 4. Nov. 1682. RA (Denmark), Danske Kancelli, Indlteg til sjiellandske registre 1682, nr. 272-274. Berg 1904, pp. 91-93.

Secher 1929, Danske Lov af 1683, § 3-4-5.

  • 36 RA (Denmark, Danske Kancelli, Kancelliekspeditioner gennem kongens eget kammer 1680-1681/52. Instruks og missive til politikommissionen af 29/10 1681.
  • 37 Kotkas 2014, p. 103.
  • 38 KSA. Politikommissionens kopibog, indstilling nr. 4, 1/3 1682.
  • 39 Stevnsborg 2013, pp. 121-122. A similar interpretation of the creation of the Paris police, see Salter 2004.
  • 40 Nielsen 1889, pp. 292-294.
  • 41 RA (Denmark), Danske Kancelli, Indlteg til sjsellandske registre 1685, nr. 86. Indla?g til forordning om hvorvidt fattige händvterksfolk I kobstcederne, som er uden lavene, mä arbejde. Bettenkning af Claus Rasch 22/9 1684.
  • 42 Examples of this in Paris, see Garrioch 1994; Dinges 1997.
  • 43 Koch 1982, pp. 40-45.
  • 44 KSA, Kobenhavns magistrat, Rädstueprotokol 1683-1685, 23/8-18/10 1683. RA (Denmark), Hojesteret, Domprotokol 1683-1684, 11/3 & 13/3 1684; Nielsen 1889, pp. 282-287; Berg 1904, pp. 94-97; Skall 1983, p. 40; Kar-mark 1989, pp. 48-50.
  • 45 Skall 1983; Mührmann-Lund 2018, pp. 226-228.
  • 46 RA (Denmark), Danske kancelli, Indlteg til sjx’llandske tegnelser 1686, nr. 434. Indlteg til missive til magistraten af 24/12 1686; Nielsen 1889, pp. 280-282, 287-292; Berg 1904, pp. 97-102; Karmark 1989, pp. 50-55.
  • 47 Bjorn 1980, pp. 36-138.
  • 48 KSA, Kobenhavns magistrat, Rädstueprotokol 7/7 1684. The petition of the joiner journeymen of the Danish nation; RA (Denmark), Danske Kancelli, Indlteg til sjtellandske registre 1684, nr. 298. Indlieg til forordning af 28/10
  • 1684.
  • 49 Berg 1904, p. 98.
  • 50 Nielsen 1889, pp. 279-280.
  • 51 RA (Denmark), Danske Kancelli, Henlagte sager 1713-1715. Projekt af politi- og kommercekollegiet til nye lavsartikler 18.05.1714.
  • 52 Schous Forordninger, Forordning af 21. marts 1800 ang. Handvterkslavene i Kobenhavn. Berg 1904, pp. 103-107; Henningsen 1960, pp; Karmark 1989, pp. 56-108.
  • 53 Holberg 1750, p. 354.
  • 54 Henningsen 1960.
  • 55 Jespersen 2010; Galster 1947.


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