The guilds had an extraordinary role in the economic, cultural and artistic development of Florence, in the Renaissance.
These associations of free men were organized by trade: merchants, artisans, traders, craftsmen, entrepreneurs and business men. They ruled Florence, in what is considered one of the earliest democratic political systems of the whole western world.
Reputation, moral standing, business achievements were all qualifying preconditions to becoming a member of a guild.
Similar associations were important in Europe, in China (Hanghui during the sui dynasty in 589 - 618 AD) and in India (Shreni during the Gupta in 300 - 600), but nowhere else did the guilds contribute to the economic and cultural progress of their community, and thus to the world heritage, as in Florence.