Drucraft corporations are much less ancient than Drucraft Houses . . . which is to be expected, as they originated from them.
Houses dominated the drucraft world for thousands of years. While outsiders could and did learn drucraft themselves, the members of Houses always started with an advantage. A child of a noble House benefited from better and earlier drucraft training, better access to sigls, and (quite often) a handful of extremely powerful sigls inherited from their parents, stronger than anything they would be able to produce themselves. In a contest between an outsider and a House heir, the heir could usually be expected to come out on top. This was not always the case – capable outsiders could and did arise – but when this happened the outsider would usually end up joining the ranks of the Houses, either by marrying some opportunistic aristocrat with an eye for talent, or (in some exceptional cases) starting a House of their own. In this way the House system maintained itself for a long time.
It was social change that upset this equilibrium. Urbanisation in Europe led to the formation of a new and increasingly influential middle class, one with an interest in commerce and new markets. It was inevitable that some of them would take an interest in drucraft. They lacked the expertise of the Houses, but they had a resource to draw upon; the cast-offs of the Houses themselves.
Succession had always been a problem for Drucraft Houses. Dividing a House’s holdings was rarely practical; often a House’s wealth was concentrated in a single estate and Well, and even where this was not the case, splitting its holdings between multiple children would weaken it, perhaps fatally. As a result, succession among Drucraft Houses was usually all-or-nothing; only one child could inherit rulership and title. Extra daughters had a chance of marrying into a different House, but extra sons tended to be an uncomfortable loose end.
With the new arrivals on the drucraft scene, these ‘spares’ suddenly had an alternate career path open to them. Partnerships were formed; the urban middle class brought wealth and business experience, while the nobles brought their drucraft expertise and social connections. This was the birth of drucraft corporations.
Existence for these early corporations was often a struggle. The Drucraft Houses had long enjoyed a monopoly on sigls, one which they were not inclined to share, and often they would use their political connections to ensure that the corporations would find themselves barred from the purchase or ownership of permanent Wells. But the corporations adapted, and came to focus instead on a different market; temporary Wells, which by their nature were much harder to track or tax. Still, for the 17th and 18th centuries, corporations existed very much in the shadow of their noble predecessors.
It was during the 19th century that things changed. The legal principle of limited liability suddenly made companies a far more attractive financial prospect, and drucraft corporations began to grow, expanding in reach and power. The wars and social upheavals of the next hundred years reduced the power of the old Noble Houses, and the corporations were well positioned to expand into the vacuum. They benefited even more from the economic liberalisation policies of the late 20th century, and by the dawn of the new millennium, drucraft corporations had overtaken Drucraft Houses in both wealth and importance in virtually every country in the world.
By the 2020s, drucraft corporations have become behemoths, global players in their own right. While they still have associations with their country of origin, the tendency has been towards multinationalism, and the average large drucraft corporation now has offices in a dozen countries or more. In some cases it’s no longer clear what a company’s home country is, or whether it even has one. Drucraft companies dominate the temporary Well market, and own a significant fraction of the permanent one. They are stereotypically viewed as amoral and concerned only with profit, and in practice this prejudice is often correct.