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Access to the trade: monopoly and mobility in European craft guilds, 17th and 18th centuries

Maarten Prak, Clare Crowston, Bert De Munck, Christopher Kissane, Chris Minns, Ruben Schalk and Patrick Wallis

Economic History Working Papers from London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History

Abstract: One of the standard objections against citizenship systems and trade organizations in the premodern world has been their exclusiveness. Privileged access to certain professions and industries is seen as a disincentive for technological progress. Guilds, especially, have been portrayed as providing unfair advantages to established masters and their descendants, over immigrants and other outsiders. In this paper the results of detailed local investigations of the composition of citizenries and guild apprentices and masters is brought together, to find out to what extent this picture is historically correct. This data offers an indirect measurement of the accessibility of citizenship and guilds that allows insight into the mechanisms of exclusion and their impact. The paper finds that guild masterships were in most towns open to large numbers of immigrants and non-family, as were training markets for apprentices. Therefore, we argue, our understanding of urban and guild ‘monopolies’, and the measure of protection and reward they supplied to established citizens, is in need of serious revision.

Keywords: guilds; Europe; institutions; social capital; inequality; labour markets (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D02 D72 L22 N33 N43 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-his and nep-mig
Date: 2018
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