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Business and Commerce

Stone roads, buildings, churches and  marketplaces left little room for orchards, fields, and grazing, and  these new cities soon lost rural roots and became more and more  urbanized. Animal traffic made congested roads filthy, and water  supplies were limited. Some women spent the entire day drawing water  from wells.

Merchants began trading with those of  other cities and treaties were formed to protect those carrying goods  from one city to another, with these caravans often protected by  government troops. Within a city, merchants often swore association to  protect each other within the walls.

Medieval towns held markets at least  once a week in the square, where stalls were set up and local merchants would sell their wares. Nearby towns may have also sent any surplus  goods they could to be sold.

Fairs might be held once or twice a  year that attracted foreign merchants from distant lands brining fine  woolens, silks, carpets and other items not available from local shops. These fairs would attract strolling minstrels, performing tumblers and acrobats, and animal acts with trained bears and horses. Medieval  fairs could last for several days.

The medieval business world became  dominated by the Guilds. When merchants found they could accomplish  more as a group rather than through individual effort, they banded  together to form guilds. Guilds formed for bakers, butchers, grocers,  millers, smiths, carpenters  weavers, mason, shoemakers, in fact,  nearly every trade had its own guild. Standards such as just weights  and measures evolved from the guilds, and searchers would inspect shops to ensure rules were being followed. Guilds would help members that  were sick, or in trouble, and would sometimes take care of families  after the member died.

Apprenticeship was how most started in a particular trade, which they would follow the rest of their lives.  Apprentices were often also the master's domestic servant and helper,  and his workday was long indeed. After completing an apprenticeship,  the appropriate guild would examine his work and see if he could be  elevated to journeyman status. This was taken quite literally, as the  worker would journey from town to town to learn more about the trade.  Journeymen were required to create a "masterpiece" in the presence of  judges to be elevated to master status. At this point, the journeyman  would place his hand on a Bible and swear allegiance to the guild and  his craft.

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