The notion of "guilds" in civic society might conjure images of craft guilds, the organisations of butchers, bakers or brewers set up to regulate working practises. In the towns of medieval Flanders, however, a plethora of guilds existed which had little or nothing to do with the organisation of labour, including chambers of rhetoric, urban jousters and archery and crossbow guilds.
This is the first full-length study of the archery and crossbow guilds, encompassing not only the great urban centres of Ghent, Bruges and Lille but also numerous smaller towns, whose participation in guild culture was nonetheless significant. It examines guild membership, structure and organisation, revealing the diversity of guild brothers - and sisters - and bringing to life the elaborate social occasions when princes and plumbers would dine together. The most spectacular of these were the elaborate regional shooting competitions, whose entrances alone included play wagons, light shows and even an elephant! It also considers their social and cultural activities, and their important role in strengthening and rebuilding regional networks. Overall, it provides a new perspective on the strength of community within Flemish towns and the values that underlay medieval urban ideology.
Laura Crombie gained her PhD from the university of Glasgow; she is currently a teaching fellow in medieval history at the University of Leicester.