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Craft Guilds, Apprenticeship, and Technological Change in Preindustrial Europe

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 March 2009

S. R. Epstein
Affiliation:
Reader in Economic History at the London School of Economics and Political Science, London WC2A 2AE.

Abstract

This article argues that medieval craft guilds emerged in order to provide transferable skills through apprenticeship. They prospered for more than half a millennium because they sustained interregional specialized labor markets and contributed to technological invention by stimulating technical diffusion through migrant labor and by providing inventors with temporary monopoly rents. They played a leading role in preindustrial manufacture because their main competitor, rural putting out, was a net consumer rather than producer of technological innovation. They finally disappeared not through adaptive failure but because national states abolished them by decree.

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Articles
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Copyright © The Economic History Association 1998

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