Apprenticeship and Learning by Doing

The Role of Privileged Enclaves in Early Modern French Cities

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Author: Jeff Horn 1
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  • 1 Manhattan College, USA jeff.horn@manhattan.edu
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In France, formal guild training was not as ubiquitous a means of socializing young people into a trade as it has been portrayed by scholars. Guilds were limited geographically, and in many French cities privileged enclaves controlled by clerical or noble seigneurs curbed the sway of corporate structures, or even created their own. Eighteenth-century Bordeaux provides an extreme example of how limited guild training was in France’s fastest-growing city. The clerical reserves of Saint-Seurin and Saint-André that housed much of the region’s industrial production had quasi-corporate structures with far more open access and fewer training requirements. In Bordeaux, journeymen contested masters’ control over labor and masters trained almost no apprentices themselves. Formal apprenticeship mattered exceptionally little when it came to training people to perform a trade in Bordeaux.

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