The City Archives holds records of the Merchants House and Trades House in Glasgow and all 15 individual craft Incorporations, such as bakers, wrights and masons.
The records can include lists of members, accounts and minutes dealing with regulations, donations to poor members and apprenticeships.
Craft guilds or incorporations were formed in the middle ages and were an important part of burgh life then and in later centuries. 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.
Conflict and the Merchants House of Glasgow
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. The tension was resolved in 1605, which led to the establishment of the Merchants House of Glasgow.