em> existed in France in very early times, perhaps in direct continuation of the Roman institutions, and played a great part in the beginnings of many towns. So early as to be anterior to the earliest known Frith Gilds, that is to say in the latter half of the seventh century, a regularly organised system of confederation existed among the Anglo-Saxon monasteries throughout England, according to the rules of which the united Abbeys and Religious Houses undertook to pray for the members, living and departed, of one another:
[Sidenote: English and Continental Gilds.]
Each of these associations, so various in date and object, bore great resemblance to the Gilds of later times, according as the latter are considered in the light of some one or other of their functions: now it is the common feast, now it is the possession of corporate property, here it is the union of all the workmen of a craft into one sodality, there it is the association of neighbours for mutual responsibility and
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