WP3 Historical Development of Citizenship
Guilds and local citizenship have suffered bad press over the last two centuries, as monopolists (or monopsonists) tried to capture rents on protected markets for raw materials, labour and consumer products. This paradigm is now under scrutiny and being revised, not least because there is enough evidence to suggest that the strict rules were not necessarily stringently applied (Epstein & Prak 2008; Minard 2007). The parallels with modern practice come to mind. Historical studies can help us to unravel the underlying mechanisms of such behaviour and weigh the costs and benefits of systems of protected interests, which are an important dimension of citizenship. A systematic and comparative study of who gained access, first to apprenticeship and subsequently to membership of guilds, can build on much important research that has been undertaken over the past 25 years in various European countries, not least by the members of the WP3-team themselves (De Munck, Kaplan & Soly 2007; De Munck 2010; Leunig, Minns & Wallis 2011).
Much of the current debate focuses on the access to rights. One school argues that rights were limited to a relatively constrained group of individuals, who used citizenship and other institutional mechanisms to exclude women, religious minorities and the working classes from the economic means to increase their own welfare (e.g. Ogilvie 2007). Others have argued that rules and regulations that may have looked harsh on paper, were actually poorly enforced. Guild monopolies, for example, were very difficult to monitor, especially in large cities. Preferential treatment of relatives did not prevent outsiders from accessing the guilds. In fact, these ‘revisionists’ argue, guilds and similar institutions helped to overcome frictions in labour and other markets, and may – on balance – have turned out to be beneficial (Epstein & Prak, 2008). We know, for example, that migration was substantial long before the rise of industrialisation. It therefore seems, it is argued, as if local citizenship could be combined with larger, indeed European, labour mobility.
So far, much of this debate is waged on the basis of impressions rather than hard evidence. No coherent dataset is available at this point to answer the very basic question of who got access to the benefits of the guilds and, by implication, citizenship. This is what WP3 seeks to address and indeed remedy. Through detailed study of a limited number of countries in Western Europe where the sources permit this kind of study and sufficient groundwork has been done, supplemented by additional information from other countries contributed through workshop papers, WP3 is expected to produce the data (and analyses) that can help move the debate forward.
Through its study of access to guilds and citizenship, WP3 moreover aims to contribute an important new dimension to an on-going debate about the role of civic institutions in economic growth and development. In recent years, the literature has been shaped by political scientists such as Putnam (1993 and 2000), economists such as Besley (2006), and Acemoglu and Robinson (2006). These scholars all try to pinpoint the interplay between the economic and political domains. Historical examples are an important feature of the debate, which is, however, still dogged by the ambiguity of similar institutions: they seem to be positive in one context and negative in another. Our project, by zooming in on one specific, yet crucial point of contact between institutions and the economy, is expected to make a contribution to solving this conundrum.
– Acemoglu, Daron, & James A. Robinson (2006), Economic origins of dictatorship and democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
– Besley, Timothy (2006), Principled agents: The political economy of good government (Oxford: Oxford University Press)
– De Munck, Bert (2010), ‘From brotherhood community to civil society? Apprentices between guild, household and the freedom of contract in early modern Antwerp’, Social history: 1-20
– Steven L. Kaplan, & Hugo Soly (eds) (2007), Learning on the shop floor: historical perspectives on apprenticeship (New York, N.Y.: Berghahn Books)
– Epstein, S.R., & Maarten Prak (eds.) (2008), Guilds, innovation and the European economy, 1400-1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
– Leunig, Tim, & Chris Minns, & Patrick Wallis (2011), ‘Networks in the pre-modern economy: the market for London apprenticeships, 1600-174’, Journal of economic history, 71: 413-443
– Minard, Philippe (2007), ‘Trade without institution? French debates about restoring guilds at the start of the Nineteenth Century’, in: Ian Gadd, Patrick Wallis (eds.), Guilds and Association in Europe, 1200-1900 (London, Institute of Historical Research): 83-100
– Ogilvie, Sheilagh (2007), ‘“Whatever is right is right?”: Economic institutions in pre-industrial Europe’, Economic History Review 60: 649-84
– Putnam, Robert D. (1993), Making democracy work: Civic traditions in modern Italy (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press)
– Putnam, Robert D. (2000), Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community (New York: Simon & Schuster)