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Trade Companies

Wright. The armes of all the cheife corporatons of England. London, 1596

Incorporation bestowed a charter and a legal personality. Cities and craft and trade companies were alike corporate bodies with legal standing — and all depended on the royal prerogative. With this dense grid of repeating squares, Benjamin Wright educated people in the codes of city (or “corporation”) and company (or guild) coats of arms. The first twelve are the “great” companies of London — the wealthiest companies from which the Lords Mayor were elected. A total of sixty companies are represented, with the watermen bringing up the rear. Certain civic privileges were

restricted to freemen of the companies, but women participated in the trades, through their family businesses. Many widows managed their shops.


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