Apprenticeship and growth in England, 1550-1800
12 Jan 2018, 17:15 to 12 Jan 2018, 19:15
IHR Seminar Room N304, Third Floor, IHR, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
Patrick Wallis , London School of Economics
Apprenticeship has been identified as both a potential driver and a possible brake on economic growth in early modern Europe. In this paper, I examine the characteristics of apprenticeship in England between c.1550 and c.1800 and offer a general view on the ways in which apprenticeship influenced structural change, migration and productivity, drawing on evidence from a range of contexts, as well as considering the degree to which the formal and informal organization of apprenticeship created barriers to entry and raised rents for masters. The account of apprenticeship that I offer suggests that some of its advantages were accidental, unintended consequences of institutional changes carried out for unrelated or opposing reasons that made craft training more attractive and more flexible than it might have been. Other positive connections between apprenticeship and productivity were rooted in the concentrated organization of production and trade in England. As for the case that apprenticeship was manipulated by guilds or other organizations to secure rents, I suggest that there is little evidence to support this view for England. Overall, apprenticeship can reasonably be seen as one of the institutions that facilitated England’s commercial transition over the long seventeenth-century. Its impact weakened substantially with industrialization, however.
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