An important result of the guild framework was the emergence of universities at Bologna (established in 1088), Oxford (at least since 1096) and Paris (c. 1150); they originated as guilds of students (as at Bologna) or of masters (as at Paris).
A type of guild was known in Roman times. Known as collegium, collegia or corpus, these were organised groups of merchants who specialised in a particular craft and whose membership of the group was voluntary. One such example is the corpus naviculariorum, the college of long-distance shippers based at Rome's La Ostia port. The Roman guilds failed to survive the collapse of the Roman Empire.
In medieval cities, craftsmen tended to form associations based on their trades, confraternities of textile workers, masons, carpenters, carvers, glass workers, each of whom controlled secrets of traditionally imparted technology, the "arts" or "mysteries" of their crafts. Usually the founders were free independent master craftsmen who hired apprentices.
There were several types of guilds, including the two main categories of merchant guilds and craft guilds but also the frith guild and religious guild. Guilds arose beginning in the High Middle Ages as craftsmen united to protect their common interests. In the German city of Augsburg craft guilds are being mentioned in the Towncharter of 1156.
The continental system of guilds and merchants arrived in England after the Norman Conquest, with incorporated societies of merchants in each town or city holding exclusive rights of doing business there. In many cases they became the governing body of a town. For example, London's Guildhall became the seat of the Court of Common Council of the City of London Corporation, the world’s oldest continuously elected local government whose members to this day must be Freemen of the City. The Freedom of the City, effective from the Middle Ages until 1835, gave the right to trade, and was only bestowed upon members of a Guild or Livery.