German literature on the history of insurance stresses the importance of professional guilds for the shaping of insurance and insurance law. Similarly, scholars researching the genesis of Germany’s social security claim the importance of guilds as predecessor of social security. However, there is a problem with both narratives: the impact of guilds is commonly asserted but has never been analytically established. Against this background, the present contribution offers an analysis of the support offered by professional guilds from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century. Its overall conclusion is that modern literature is correct in holding that Germany’s social security is rooted in guild welfare. However, medieval guild support had to go through two phases of transformation in the early modern period and in the nineteenth century before it was apt as a model for Bismarck’s social security legislation. By contrast, professional guilds had no direct impact on modern insurance and insurance law.

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