chapter  III
7 Pages

The City Companies

The circumstances in which the Livery Companies originated are not precisely known, but it is believed that they are descended from the merchant guilds which flourished in the Norman and Plantagenet eras. These guilds exercised in early times extensive powers of regulating the various trades and manufactures in which their members were engaged; but by the opening of the Tudor period these vocational activities had become of mino* importance or had disappeared entirely.1 Their jurisdiction over economic life fell away in the 15th and 16th centuries; and in the 17th century the powers of search and monopoly contained in their charters were in several cases declared illegal by the courts, with the result that they no longer possessed coercive power.3