Between the twelfth and seventeenth centuries, gilds were the basis of industrial and commercial organization in England. Surprisingly, however, the disappearance of gilds has been neglected by historians. In The Most Necessary Luxuries, Ronald Berger uses the Mercers' Company of Coventry to follow the eclipse of an entire trading community in one of England's premier medieval cities and manufacturing centers. Berger charts the difficulties faced by mercers and grocers in a growing capitalist economy and discusses their unsuccessful efforts to maintain their prosperity. The book helps to explain both the development of a new urban system and the rise of shops in Midland England. It shows how shops replaced markets and fairs and uses the economics of the fashion trades to explain why provincial shops could not overcome the competition put forward by the metropolis.The Most Necessary Luxuries unites the fields of social, urban, and economic history to explain the decline of a medieval city, the evolution of the English urban middle class, and the transformation from an amalgam of wealthy wholesalers and distributors of luxury goods to an association of mere shopkeepers. It demonstrates that the rise of commercial capitalism between 1550 and 1700 in England undermined the medieval economy that was based on protected markets, restrictive trading practices, and entrenched oligarchies that dominated towns.