This study provides a first empirical test of the link between craft guilds and religious traditions such as the belief in purgatory put forth by Richardson and McBride (2009). For this purpose, we investigate the relationship between the diffusion of the Brethren of the Common Life (BCL), a spiritual group that, while not explicitly opposing the doctrine of purgatory, called into question certain religious traditions that might convincingly be included into the framework of Richardson and McBride (2009). In line with the theory, we find that there is a negative and significant relationship between the number of guilds per capita in existence in 1560 and BCL presence in the city. Using the distance to Deventer, the birthplace of the BCL, as a source of exogenous variation for the spread of the BCL, we present evidence that causality ran from the BCL to the density of craft guilds, a finding that we show to be robust to a large number of alternative explanations. Furthermore, we exploit this reduction in the number of guilds per capita in an attempt to estimate the causal effect of craft guilds on economic growth. Since this analysis is complicated by issues of underidentification, we only present some tentative results which do not reveal a clear pattern as to the sign and magnitude of the relationship. Our estimates do, however, suggest that the growth impact of the BCL through guilds was small relative to the other effects that have been identified in previous work.

Additional Metadata
Thesis Advisor Webbink, H.D.
Persistent URL
Series Economics
Schafmeister, F. (2017, September). Craft Guilds and Christianity. Economics. Retrieved from