This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 320294


Contracting for Apprenticeship in Early Modern Europe (D3.5)

June 2, 2017

This paper examines how contacts were used to secure apprenticeships in Early Modern Europe. How apprenticeship was facilitated matters for our understanding of citizenship because service through training was one of the main avenues on the road to citizenship for European youth prior to 1800. It is well-known that the conditions associated with apprenticeship varied considerably across Europe, most notably with longer terms in England than elsewhere. Much as in present-day employment relationships, parties entering into apprenticeship agreements had incomplete and imperfect information about one another. Were the variations in apprenticeship practice matched by different methods being used to secure training relationships? When did parties use contracts, and how did they structure them, to resolve issues of incomplete information? We use evidence from several apprenticeship contracts in five European countries and regions to consider these issues. We find that contract were most frequently used where the costs of contracting were low and the benefits higher. While the general structure of contracts was fairly similar where they were used, the typical package of compensation and training varied between regions, particularly in terms of wages and board offered to apprentices. To address issues of incomplete information, many contracts included penalty clauses to discourage ex-post renegotiation, and the information about contract signatories provided suggests that parties should have some knowledge of alternative options available to apprentices outside of the contract.

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