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Crafts, Handicrafts and Trades (German: Handwerk, literally: "work by hand"): The German word is a generic term for the production of goods other than agricultural produce, particularly in the pre-industrial age. The crafts produce their goods in small independent units headed by "master craftsmen" with the aid of "journeymen" and apprentices, often with other family members participating in the work. In terms of the raw materials used and the products manufactured by them, Handwerk can be classified as stone and earth processing (stonemasonry, pottery, ceramics etc.), the processing of precious metals, iron or other metals, textile processing, woodworking and leather processing crafts. The building trade (masons, bricklayers etc.), garment-making (tailors, shoemakers), food and beverage processing (millers, butchers, bakers, brewers, distillers, confectioners etc.), the manufacture of luxury goods (goldsmiths, silk manufacturers), and various personal services (barbers, hairdressers, cosmeticians etc.), are also counted as being a Handwerk.

It is now believed that the crafts and trades developed on account of the obligations of various groups of subjects to pay dues to their superiors in different forms. In the High Middle Ages, craftsmen concentrated in cities and market towns. The oldest documents regulating trades and crafts were promulgated by cities or their rulers: in 1211/1235 such a regulation governing the brotherhood of shoemakers and leather workers of Friesach was promulgated by Archbishop Eberhard II of Salzburg, in 1260 the guild of leather-workers of St. Poelten was regulated in a similar way by the Bishop of Passau, and in 1267 the butchers of Tulln were subjected to such regulations. Handwerke were organised in "Zechen" or "Innungen" (= guilds) which were domiciled in a city and comprised special groups of craftsmen of that city and of neighbouring cities and market towns. Initially they covered larger groups of craftsmen (for instance, the Leonhardszeche in Vienna covered all iron-working crafts) but were increasingly differentiated as division of labour proliferated (by 1454 Vienna counted 68 crafts organised in 55 Zechen). These guilds regulated and supervised production, limited access to the crafts ("closed" guilds) and enforced membership.

From the late Middle Ages, these strict regulations resulted in constant rivalry between the organised crafts in the cities and those in the open country ("Gaeu"-Handwerk), which were not organised. The rural craftsmen who were not organised in guilds and those in the cities and market towns who refused to join their guild were regarded as undesirable competitors. Under the crafts policies of Mercantilism and the subsequent period new regulations were issued for "non-guild" crafts and trades and the limitations that had been imposed by the guilds were eliminated, in particular for what were called "commercial trades" (from 1754) and for all privileged or licensed "manufacturers". Merchants frequently became the "Verleger" ("dealers") for the craftsmen, who in this way lost their financial independence. Up until the early 20th century these "dealers" integrated the crafts and trades, whether or not organised in guilds, into supra-regional markets, which often resulted in the development of new forms of division of labour. Ultimately the integration of these separate functions led to the establishment of large enterprises ("factories") and to the disappearance of the productive function of the crafts and trades. Even though many individual types of craft were superseded, Handwerk has not disappeared completely, but has often assumed a multiplicity of new tasks such as sub-contracting, providing services, assembling and repair work. Crafts and Trades.


H. Zatschek, Handwerk und Gewerbe in Wien, 1949; Gewerbe in Oesterreich, in: Christliche Demokratie 2, no. 4, 1984.