Workshop on Apprenticeship in Early Modern Europe: One Institution or Many?

Researchers at LSE and Utrecht are co-organsising a workshop on 3rd-4th July on apprenticeship in early modern Europe. It will bring together a group of researchers with case studies looking at different systems and developments in a range of countries and cities, from Madrid to Finland, with the aim of allowing us to think comparatively about the institution of apprenticeship.

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.

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

For further information please contact:

Workshop Programme

Sunday July 3, Fundatie van Renswoude, Agnietenstraat 5, Utrecht

13.00 Introduction

13.10 – 14.50

Joel Mokyr: Clans, Guilds, and Markets: Apprenticeship Institutions and Growth in the Pre Industrial Economy
Patrick Wallis & Chris Minns: England

15.20 – 17.00

Reinhold Reith: Germany
Ruben Schalk: Northern Netherlands

17:30 Viewing of apprentice portraits of Fundatie (TBC)

19:00 Dinner (location TBC)

Monday July 4, Utrecht University, Drift 23, Room 2.07

9.00 – 10.40

Nina Lerman: Colonial America
Merja Uotila: Finland


Anna Bellavitis: Venice
Beatrice Zucca Micheletto: Turin

12.40 Lunch

13:40 – 16:10

Bert De Munck: Southern Netherlands
Clare Crowston & Claire Lemercier: France
José Nieto & Victoria López: Madrid

16:30 – 17:30 Closing Discussion