Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

guilds and similar professional associations were present in Greek and Roman antiquity. However, with the fall of the Western Roman Empire, towns and cities shrank in size, and guilds waned with them. Because bakers’ trades were indispensable to city-dwellers, they survived rather well through troubled centuries. The bakers were divided among proper bakers (pistores) and oven tenders (fornarii) who took care of communal ovens but also occasionally sold their own baked goods.

With Europe’s improved economy and urbanization in the tenth and eleventh centuries, guilds reappeared, initially in the cities and small towns along the newly prosperous trade routes. In London, a guild of bakers obtained royal recognition by 1160. This guild may have served the royal household and possibly administered an early form of the Assize of Bread, a statute that regulated the price, weight, and quality of the bread sold in towns, villages, and hamlets from the thirteenth century on and was considered a crucial aspect of successful urban governance. The Assize of Bread was the first English law to regulate the production and sale of food.