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


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)