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A reassessment of the role of guild courts in disputes over apprenticeship contracts: a case study from early modern Italy

  • ANDREA CARACAUSI (a1)
Abstract

This article analyses the mechanisms of conflict resolution in apprenticeship contracts using a large database of disputes from early modern Italy. It finds that the guild court under investigation (the Padua Woollen Guild court) did not enforce training contracts, but rather sought to improve on incomplete contracts by adding clauses, thereby helping individuals renegotiate and redefine the contractual arrangements into which they had decided to enter. However, power relations within the court operated largely in favour of employers, both merchants and master craftsmen. The article concludes that alternative contract enforcement systems, such as municipal or state courts, were probably better suited than corporative systems for resolving disputes surrounding apprenticeship.

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1 North, D. C., Institutions, institutional change and economic performance (Cambridge, 1990); Greif, A., Institutions and the path to the modern economy: lessons from medieval trade (Cambridge, 2006); Ma, D. and Van Zanden, J. L. eds., Law and long-term economic change: a Eurasian perspective (Stanford, 2011).

2 Epstein, S., ‘Craft guilds, apprenticeship, and technological change in preindustrial Europe’, Journal of Economic History 58, 3 (1998), 688–93.

3 Gustafsson, B., ‘The rise and economic behaviour of medieval craft guilds: an economic-theoretical interpretation’, Scandinavian Economic History Review 35, 1 (1987), 140, esp. 21; Epstein, ‘Craft guilds, apprenticeship, and technological change’; De Munck, B., Kaplan, S. L., and Soly, H. eds., Learning on the shop floor: historical perspectives on apprenticeship (New York and Oxford, 2007), 10; Lucassen, J., De Moor, T. and van Zanden, J. L., ‘The return of the guilds: towards a global history of the guilds in pre-industrial times’, International Review of Social History 53, Supplement S16 (2008), 14, 17; Epstein, S. and Prak, M., ‘Introduction: guilds, innovation, and the European economy, 1400–1800’, in Epstein, S. and Prak, M. eds., Guilds, innovation, and the European economy, 1400–1800 (Cambridge, 2008), 711 .

4 However, see Ogilvie, S., ‘Guilds, efficiency, and social capital: evidence from German proto-industry’, Economic History Review 57, 2 (2004), 302–14, esp. 309; Ogilvie, S., ‘The economics of guilds’, Journal of Economic Perspectives 28, 4 (2014), 169–92, esp. 181–3.

5 Wallis, P., ‘Apprenticeship and training in premodern England’, Journal of Economic History 68, 3 (2008), 854; Minns, C. and Wallis, P., ‘Rules and reality: quantifying the practice of apprenticeship in early modern England’, Economic History Review 65, 2 (2012), 552, 574; Minns, C. and Wallis, P., ‘The price of human capital in a pre-industrial economy: premiums and apprenticeship contracts in 18th century England’, Explorations in Economic History 50, 3 (2013), 349. See also Munck, B. De, ‘Gilding golden ages: perspectives from early modern Antwerp on the guild debate, c. 1450–c. 1650’, European Review of Economic History 15, 2 (2011), 221–53. See also Wallis, P., Webb, C. and Minns, C., ‘Leaving home and entering service: the age of apprenticeship in early modern London’, Continuity and Change 25, 3 (2010), 377404 .

6 See, for instance, the comments in Minns and Wallis, ‘Rules and reality’; De Munck, ‘Gilding golden ages’; Wallis, P., ‘Labor, law, and training in early modern London: apprenticeship and the City's institutions’, Journal of British Studies 51, 4 (2012), 800. Studying court cases and apprenticeship contracts, all the mentioned authors are less convinced about the role of guilds in contract enforcement.

7 The civil trials are in Archivio di Stato di Padova (hereafter ASP), Università della lana (hereafter UL), 48–70, 77–88 (years 1525–1560, 1570–1582, 1584–1589, 1594–1599, 1609, 1612, 1614–1618, 1620–1630, 1635–1636, 1638, 1640, 1642).

8 Panciera, W., L'arte matrice: i lanifici della Repubblica di Venezia nei secoli 17. e 18 (Treviso, 1996), 1621, 115–27, 209–16; Caracausi, A., Dentro la bottega: culture del lavoro in una città d'età moderna (Venice, 2008).

9 A. Caracausi, ‘Textiles manufacturing, product innovations and transfers of technology in Padua and Venice (16th–18th century)’, in B. De Munck and K. Davids eds., Creativity and innovation in late medieval and early modern European cities (Aldershot, 2014), 141.

10 Borelli, G., ‘A reading of the relationship between cities, manufacturing crafts and guilds in early modern Italy’, in Guenzi, A., Massa, P., and Caselli, F. Piola eds., Guilds, markets and work regulations in Italy, 16th–19th centuries (Aldershot, 1998); A. Moioli, ‘The changing role of the guilds in the reorganization of the Milanese economy throughout the sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries’, in Guenzi, Massa, and Piola Caselli eds., Guilds, markets and work regulations.

11 Pfister, U., ‘Craft guilds and industrial development in early modern Europe’, in Dalla corporazione al mutuo soccorso: organizzazione e tutela del lavoro tra XVI e XX secolo (Milan, 2004), 290–1.

12 Soly, H., ‘The political economy of European craft guilds: power relations and economic strategies of merchants and master artisans in the medieval and early modern textile industries’, International Review of Social History 53, Supplement S16 (2008), 50–1, 63.

13 Caracausi, A., ‘Procedure di giustizia in età moderna: i tribunali corporativi’, Studi Storici, 2 (2008), 323–60.

14 Only around 40 per cent of Italian guild statutes contained apprenticeship regulations; see Mocarelli, L., ‘Guilds reappraised: Italy in the early modern period’, International Review of Social History 53, Supplement S16 (2008), 171.

15 Caracausi, ‘Textiles manufacturing’, 141.

16 Ibid., 147–8 (where the 1620s is referred to; this is an error introduced during copyediting).

17 Ago, R., Economia barocca: mercato e istituzioni nella Roma del Seicento (Rome, 1998) xii. On the issue of contract incompleteness, see Tirole, J., ‘Incomplete contracts: where do we stand?’, Econometrica 67, 4 (1999), 741–81; Battigalli, P. and Maggi, G., ‘Rigidity, discretion, and the costs of writing contracts’, American Economic Review 92, 4 (2002), 798817 .

18 Ago, Economia, xii–xiii. We have references to liberculi made by the guild's notary but very few traces of these have survived (ASP UL, b. 53, c. 406r, 17 April 1537).

19 For around 30 notarial or private apprenticeship contracts, see: ASP UL, b. 71, c. 375r; b. 84, c. 116r, b. 44, c. 10r; b. 71, c. 375r; Notarile, b. 3435, c. 104r; b. 4965, c. 17r–v, c. 71r, c. 71v, c. 122r, c. 171r, c. 171v, c. 174r, c. 176r, c. 179r, c. 180v, c. 199r, c. 328r–v, c. 337r, c. 339r, c. 400r, c. 446r; b. 4966, c. 27r, c. 66r, c. 105r, c. 107r, c. 209r, c. 227r, c. 247r, c. 270r, c. 277r, c. 281r, c. 318r, c. 313r, c. 354r, c. 374r.

20 ASP UL, b. 86, c. 413r.

21 ASP UL, b. 67, c. 363v, 3 December 1555.

22 See Caracausi ‘Procedure di giustizia’.

23 ASP UL, b. 79, c. 213v, 14 January 1577.

24 ASP UL, b. 49, c. 35r, 21 July 1556; b. 69, c. 187v, 2 June 1557.

25 ASP UL, b. 66, c. 347r–v, 8 January 1555, and c. 349v, 11 January 1555.

26 See ASP UL, b. 64, cc. 269v–270r, 1 October 1550; b. 68, c. 107v, 20 January 1556; b. 62, c. 344r, 4 June 1548. On summary procedures, see Cerutti, S., Giustizia sommaria: pratiche e ideali di giustizia in una società di ancien régime (Milan, 2003), 28.

27 ASP UL, b. 63, c. 78v, 7 August 1550.

28 For other cases, see ASP UL, b. 66, c. 191r, 15 January 1554; b. 79, c. 108v, 22 March 1576, c. 110r, 2 April 1576. On the central importance of the production of evidence when differentiating between summary and ordinary procedure see Cerutti, Giustizia sommaria, 60–8.

29 ASP UL, b. 66, c. 11r, 27 November 1553; ASP UL, b. 66, c. 177r, 12 December 1553; b. 69, c. 3v, 19 August 1557.

30 ASP UL, b. 87, c. 30r, 16 November 1620.

31 ASP UL, b. 53, c. 347v, 10 October 1536.

32 ASP UL, b. 45, c. 518r, 3 March 1519; b. 46, c. 5r–v et seq., c. 230r–v, 12 November 1520, cc. 190r–120v, 20 August–23 September 1521; b. 47, cc. 300r–330v, 1523; b. 53, c. 99r et seq., 1535; b. 61, cc. 64r et seq., 28 June 1546; cc. 362r et seq., 29 October 1546; b. 64, cc. 5r–v et seq.

33 ASP UL, b. 62, c. 1044r, 31 August 1547; b. 63, c. 372v, 30 October 1550; b. 79, c. 112r, 9 April 1576; b. 79, c. 292v, 12 October 1578; b. 60, c. 90v, 19 Mai 1545; b. 61, c. 64r, 22 September 1546; b. 65, c. 27 r, 12 December 1551 e c. 29r, 30 March 1552; b. 66, c. 29r–32v et seq.

34 ASP UL, b. 77, c. 143v, 5 July 1570.

35 ASP UL, b. 50, c. 17r, 16 July 1529.

36 Poni, C., ‘Norms and disputes: the shoemakers’ guild in eighteenth-century Bologna’, Past & Present 123 (1989), 81108 .

37 ASP UL, b. 87, c. 184v, 20 August 1621; b. 47, c. 345, 1 September 1524.

38 ASP UL, b. 50, c. 17r, 16 July 1529; c. 34r, 39v, 14 October 1529; c. 187v, 17 June 1531; c. 258v, 15 November 1531; b. 51, c. 397v, 12 August 1533; c. 471r, 20 June 1533; b. 63, c. 541r, 16 April 1551.

39 Epstein, ‘Craft guilds’, 691–2.

40 ASP UL, b. 86, c. 439v, 22 August 1616 and 447v, 19 September 1616. See also ASP UL, b. 57, c. 178v, 13 September 1540; b. 58, c. 145r, 12 January 1543, b. 78, c. 384r, 14 July 1574; 50, c. 140v, 12 October 1530, c. 168r, 24 January 1531; 51, c. 70r, 19 February 1532. On labour contracts, see also Ago, R., ‘Rome au XVIIe siècle: un marché baroque’, Genèses 50, 1 (2003), 423 .

41 ASP UL, b. 49, c. 332r, 5 June 1528, c. 528v, 7 September 1530; b. 50, c. 331r, 19 April 1531; b. 57, c. 94v, 25 August 1540.

42 ASP UL, b. 48, c. 351v, 2 May 1526; b. 68, c. 96v, 27 January 1556; b. 86, c. 420, 9 March 1616.

43 ASP UL, b. 66, c. 308v, 9 June 1553.

44 ASP UL, b. 63, c. 74r, 28 July 1550; b. 86, c. 428v, 19 May 1616

45 ASP UL, b. 68, c. 288v, 21 January 1556.

46 Ogilvie, ‘Guilds’, 286–333.

47 ASP UL, b. 49, c. 332r, 5 June 1528. For other cases, see: b. 50, c. 331r, 19 April 1531; b. 57, c. 94v, 25 August 1540.

48 ASP UL, 51, c. 125v, 16 July 1532; 48, c. 351v, 2 May 1526.

49 ASP UL, 87, c. 74r, 23 October 1624.

50 ASP UL, 84, c. 98v, 25 May 1598.

51 ASP UL, b. 88, c. 268r, 17 June 1630

52 ASP UL, 50, c. 212r, 21 August 1531.

53 ASP UL, 86, c. 439r, 19 August 1616; 65, c. 37v, 4 March 1552; ASP UL, 88, c. 527r, 5 November 1625.

54 ASP UL, 69, cc. 369r–370v, June 1558. See also ASP UL, 59, c. 457v, 7 March 1545; 64, c. 219v, 13 November 1549; 66, c. 4v, 20 November 1553; 79, c. 157v, 27 July 1575; 79, c. 387v, 4 September 1578; 81, c. 93r, 28 May 1586; 87, c. 19v, 21 August 1620.

55 ASP UL, 68, c. 325r, 26 October 1556; 61, c. 145r, 15 March 1546; See, for instance: ASP UL, 49, c. 318r, 16 March 1528; ASP UL, 50, c. 212r, 21 August 1531; ASP UL, 49, c. 528v, 7 September 1530.

56 ASP UL, 79, c. 232v, 4 November 1573; ASP UL, 59, c. 457v, 7 March 1545; ASP UL, 87, c. 185v, 27 August 1621.

57 See Hamilton, G., ‘The market for Montreal apprentices: contract length and information’, Explorations in Economic History 33, 4 (1996), 496523 , for a North American example.

58 On economic theory concerning the incompleteness of contracts, see Tirole, ‘Incomplete contracts’; Battigalli and Maggi, ‘Rigidity, discretion’.

59 Epstein, ‘Craft guilds’, 688–93.

60 ASP UL, 67, c. 69v, 18 May 1554.

61 ASP UL, b. 67, c. 202r, 5 March 1555; see also b. 77, c. 72v, 30 January 1570.

62 ASP UL, b. 70, c. 209v, 9 October 1559; c. 252r, 11 December 1559; b. 84, c. 186r, 14 May 1599.

63 ASP UL, 63, c. 208r, 21 January 1551; 60, c. 153r, 23 January 1545; ASP UL, 67, c. 363v, 3 December 1555; 68, c. 18r, 1 July 1556; 85, c. 281v, 19 January 1598.

64 Epstein, ‘Craft guilds’, 692.

65 ASP UL, 61, c. 318r, 29 October 1546; 62, 217v, 23 January 1548; 60, c. 17v, 3 October 1544; 70, c. 219v, 27 October 1559.

66 See ASP UL, 56, c. 308r, 12 February 1539.

67 Caracausi, A., ‘Beaten children and women's work in early modern Italy’, Past & Present 222 (2014), 113–16.

68 ASP UL, 78, 16 July 1574; 81, 10 July 1585; 86, c. 426r, 22 April 1616.

69 Wallis, ‘Apprenticeship’, 854.

70 Ibid.

71 Minns and Wallis, ‘Rules and reality’, 574–5 and Wallis, ‘Labor’, 800.

72 ASP UL, b. 87, c. 6r.

73 On this procedure, see ASP UL, b. 87, c. 6r and Caracausi, ‘Procedure di giustizia’.

74 On demographic trends in Italy, see Alfani, G., Calamities and the economy in Renaissance Italy: the grand tour of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Basingstoke, 2013).

75 For real wages in Venice, see Pullan, B., ‘Wage-earners and the Venetian economy, 1530–1630’, Economic History Review 16, 3 (1964), 407–26; for Italy, Malanima, P., ‘Wages, productivity and working time in Italy 1300–1913’, Journal of European Economic History, 36 (2007), 127–74.

76 See, for instance: ASP UL, 65, c. 37v, 4 March 1552.

77 See Caracausi, ‘Procedure di giustizia’.

78 Ibid.; Sonenscher, M., Work and wages: natural law, politics and eighteenth-century French trades (Cambridge, 1989); Ago, ‘Rome au XVIIe siècle’, and Cerutti, S., ‘Nature des choses et qualité des personnes’, Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales 57, 6 (2002), 1491–520 (Italy); Cocula, A., ‘Contrats d'apprentissage du XVIIIe siècle: quelques enseignements d'une moisson aquitaine’, Revue D'histoire Moderne et Contemporaine 40, 3 (1993), 430; Merry, S., ‘Legal pluralism’, Law and Society Review 22 (1988), 869–96.

79 Ben-Amos, ‘Failure’; Minns and Wallis, ‘Rules and reality’, 574; Ago, ‘Rome au XVIIe siècle’, 4, 13–14; Cerutti, ‘Nature des choses’; Munck, B. De, ‘From brotherhood community to civil society? Apprentices between guild, household and the freedom of contract in early modern Antwerp’, Social History 35, 1 (2010), 16 (for renegotiation).

80 Ago, R., ‘Enforcing agreements: notaries and courts in early modern Rome’, Continuity and Change 14, 2 (1999), 192, 199.

81 ASP UL, 84, c. 98v, 25 May 1598; ASP UL, 372, 30 July 1567

82 ASP UL, 372, trial n. 352, 18 January 1568

83 Casarino, G., Maestri e garzoni nella società genovese fra 15. e 16. Secolo, Volume IV: I giovani e l'apprendistato (Genoa, 1982), 18.

84 Casarino, Maestri e garzoni, 87.

85 De Munck, ‘From brotherhood’, 19–20.

86 A. Steidl, ‘Silk weaver and purse maker apprentices in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Vienna’, in De Munck, Kaplan and Soly eds., Learning on the shop floor, 146–8.

87 For France, see Sonenscher, Work and wages, 108–11; Kaplan, S. L., ‘L'apprentissage au XVIIIe siècle: le cas de Paris’, Revue d'histoire Moderne et Contemporaine 40, 3 (1993), 436–79.

88 Wallis, ‘Labor’, 793.

89 Minns and Wallis, ‘Rules and reality’, 556, 561–2, 567, 574.

90 Franceschi, F., ‘I giovani, l'apprendistato, il lavoro’, in Sanfilippo, I. Lori and Rigon, Antonio eds., I giovani nel medioevo: ideali e pratiche di vita (Rome, 2014), 122–43, 133 for the quotation.

91 Marcello, Lorenzo, ‘Andare a bottega: adolescenza e apprendistato nelle arti (sec. xvi–xvii)’, in Niccoli, Ottavia ed., Infanzie: funzioni di un gruppo liminale dal mondo classico all'età moderna (Florence, 1993), 231–51, 242.

92 Valentina, Marcello Della, ‘I mestieri del pane a Venezia tra ’600 e ‘700’, Atti dell'Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti: Classe di Scienze Morali, Lettere ed Arti 150 (1992), 114217, 157

93 Ben-Amos, I. K., ‘Service and the coming of age of young men in seventeenth-century England’, Continuity and Change 3, 1 (1988), 55; Smith, S., ‘The London apprentices as seventeenth-century adolescents’, Past & Present 61 (1973), 149–61, 152–3 (for England). For Antwerp, see De Munck, ‘From brotherhood’, 17.

94 Ben-Amos, ‘Failure’, 168.

95 On poor teaching in England, see Brooks, C., ‘Apprenticeship, social mobility and the middling sort 1550–1800’, in Barry, J. and Brooks, C. eds., The middling sort of people: culture, society and politics in England 1550–1800 (London, 1994), 74–5; Ben-Amos, ‘Failure’, 168; Ben-Amos, ‘Service’, 55–6.

96 Brooks, ‘Apprenticeship’, 80; De Munck, ‘From brotherhood’, 16, 18.

97 Rapp, Richard Tilden, Industria e decadenza economica a Venezia nel 17. Secolo (Rome, 1986), 67.

98 Ben-Amos, ‘Failure’, 166; Hamilton, ‘The market’; Minns and Wallis, ‘Rules and reality’, 558, 567; De Munck, B., ‘Skills, trust, and changing consumer preferences: the decline of Antwerp's craft guilds from the perspective of the product market, c. 1500–c. 1800’, International Review of Social History 53, 2 (2008), 213; De Munck, ‘Gilding golden ages’, 233, 246.

99 Casarino, Maestri e garzoni, 46, 70.

100 Shaw, J., The justice of Venice: authorities and liberties in the urban economy, 1550–1700 (Oxford, 2006), 170.

101 For private contracts in the silk industry, see Demo, E., L'anima della citta: l'industria tessile a Verona e Vicenza (1400–1550) (Milan, 2001), 171–4; Bellavitis, A., ‘Apprentissages masculins, apprentissages féminins à Venise au XVIe siècle’, Histoire urbaine 15, 1 (2006), 4973 ; Curatolo, P., Struttura, crisi e trasformazione di un sistema produttivo urbano: le corporazioni auroseriche milanesi: (1570–1720) (Milan, 1996); Laudani, S., ‘Apprenties ou jeunes salariées?’, Histoire urbaine 15, 1 (2006), 1325 . For statutes, see Mocarelli, ‘Guilds reappraised’, 176. For silk weavers, apprenticeship varied from four to seven years in velvet making (Catania 4, Verona and Brescia 5, Milan 6, Venice 5 – before 1678 – and 7 after 1678); 5–6 years in damask making (Verona and Milan 5, Venice 5 – before 1678 – and 7 after 1678). See Zamboni, P., Monografia del setificio veronese (Verona, 1885), cap. 16; Demo, L'anima, 171, n. 51; Gli statuti della Universita de' tessitori di seta, d'oro, et d'argento, della citta di Milano, Appresso Gratiadio Ferioli, Milan, 1591, cap. xxx; Archivio civico storico di Brescia, Capitoli del Paratico de Testori di Brescia della profession di fabricar drapi di seta, bavella et lana, 1712; Laudani, ‘Apprenties’; Valentina, M. Della, Operai, mezzadi, mercanti: tessitori e industria della seta a Venezia tra ‘600 e ’700 (Padua, 2003), 114.

102 Bellavitis, ‘Apprentissages masculins’, 54.

103 Shaw, The justice, 171.

104 Casarino, Maestri e garzoni, 52–3.

105 This is one of the limitations, recognised by early modern trade studies, of studying guilds using a neo-institutional approach. See Trivellato, F., The familiarity of strangers: the Sephardic diaspora, Livorno, and cross-cultural trade in the early modern period (New Haven, 2009), ch. 10. See also Ago, ‘Enforcing agreements’, 201 and Cerutti, ‘Nature des choses’, for other Italian courts.

106 Wallis, ‘Law’, 793.

107 In Genoa too there is evidence from conflicts between masters and their apprentices, which shows the extent to which masters closed ranks against the young trainees (Casarino, Maestri e garzoni, 52–3).

108 In Padua, disputes between masters and their apprentices were also brought before other  urban courts such as the Giudice alle vettovaglie. However, guilds could claim jurisdictional authority over such cases. For the situation in other Italian cities, see Ago, ‘Rome au XVIIe siècle’, Cerutti, ‘Nature des choses’; Shaw, The justice; Caracausi, A., ‘The just wage in early modern Italy: a reflection on Zacchia's De Salario Seu Operariorum Mercede ’, International Review of Social History 56, Supplement S19 (2011), 107–24. For the positive role that civil courts played in England, see Wallis, ‘Law’, 793; for southern Netherlands, see De Munck, ‘From brotherhood’, 20. For arguments that non-guild courts were institutions for the resolution of conflicts involving trade relations, see Ogilvie, S., Institutions and European trade: merchant guilds, 1000–1800 (Cambridge, 2011); Edwards, J. and Ogilvie, S., ‘What lessons for economic development can we draw from the Champagne Fairs?’, Explorations in Economic History 49, 2 (2012), 131–48; Ogilvie, S. and Carus, A. W., ‘Institutions and economic growth in historical perspective’, in Durlauf, S. and Aghion, P. eds., Handbook of economic growth, Volume II (Amsterdam, 2014), 405514 .

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