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Beginnings: Early times to 1560

Industry and Technology


By W Hamish Fraser

Clearly craftsmen of considerable skill were around as the Cathedral was built during the 12th century, but many of them would have come from France or Flanders since generally the necessary skills were absent in Scotland. The Charters granted to the Burgh of Barony encouraged the development of trade and commerce and the accompanying crafts.

By the early 15th century groups of craftsmen were organising themselves to regulate who could work at each craft. The intention was to control numbers, but also to exclude people calling themselves craftsmen who had not the requisite skills. A few would appoint a deacon or "Maister man" to oversee the trade. The state did not always look upon these organisations of craftsmen with much favour, since they were seen as being potentially dangerous conspiracies. On the other hand, by an Act of 1556, craftsmen in all burghs were granted the right to elect their own deacon and protect their craft.

There was considerable tension between the craftsmen who made goods and the merchants who traded in them with frequent battles for influence over the town council. The merchants, who regarded themselves as socially superior, tended to monopolise the magistracy and to control the burgh's financial resources. In Glasgow as in other burghs these conflicts could become quite bitter. By 1560 those engaged in crafts far outnumbered the merchants and were pressing for participation in the town's government. It may be also that there were religious factors involved with the craftsmen leaning towards the reforming protestant ideas.

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