Apprenticeship in early modern Europe


Apprenticeship in early modern Europe: one institution or many?

3-4 July 2016, Utrecht

Today, we have a unique opportunity to begin the rigorous, comparative study of pre-modern European apprenticeship. On the one hand, an unprecedented number of researchers are using new methods and sources to uncover the varied, and often surprising ways in which apprenticeship actually worked in different parts of Europe. On the other, the consequences of apprenticeship are being debated in a number of major aspects of European economic and social history, notably in connection to the economic effects of guilds and the role of human capital in industrialization.

However, we still have no good understanding of what apprenticeship meant across Europe. Even the most cursory reading of existing studies reveals marked differences in what apprenticeship meant in the cities and regions of Europe. The institutions involved, the duration and conditions, the legal form and standing of the contract, the relationship of apprenticeship to subsequent occupational status all varied widely. It seems likely that the scale of training, the type of people who entered, and the consequences that service had for their  lives may also have been very different. Yet all too often we approach early modern apprenticeship as though it was a relatively homogenous, stable system.

This workshop aims to initiate a discussion about the commonalities and differences of apprenticeship across Europe and colonial America. To what extent was there a common European form of apprenticeship? How stable was apprenticeship? Where and why did it vary? We include a range of country or city level case studies of apprenticeship from Spain to Finland. Each paper is by the leading experts in the area, and addresses a common agenda. Together, they will allow us to advance  our understanding about the ways in which apprenticeship was practiced across different regions of Europe, the way it developed over time, and its economic, social and political consequences.


Timing & Location: 13:00 – 17:30 Sunday July 3 & 9:00-17:30. Monday July 4. Utrecht

Organizers: Patrick Wallis (LSE), Ruben Schalk (Utrecht), Maarten Prak (Utrecht)

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