Apprenticeship In England, 1600-1914 by Joan Lane

By Joan Lane

A social heritage of the altering fortunes of apprentices and the procedure of apprenticeship over 3 centuries of English historical past.

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Thus tinplate workers, plumbers and apothecaries, with strict control well into the eighteenth century, all served eight years. 52 Occupations with the longer term had distinctive characteristics. Firstly, there were the changing trades, either new and expanding (Birmingham’s metalware) or old and declining (Wiltshire’s cloth industry); both categories required the longest possible terms masters could negotiate and apprentices’ parents accept. Secondly, longer terms were served by children socially unfortunate, not necessarily paupers, such as orphans, bastards or stepchildren, almost as if fostered.

Traditional apprenticeship remained the only means of entry into the occupation of attorney and all branches of medicine, except the physician’s, until the early years of the nineteenth century. Their clientele came from a very wide range of society and their fees were frequently greatly resented. Law and medicine increasingly attracted boys from good family backgrounds, but contemporary opinion was distrustful of their professional skills. 14 In time of need all classes were obliged to use the services of the medical practitioner,15 but Garth’s “Dispensary” or Hogarth’s “Monr de la Pillule” suggests the low esteem in which fringe practitioners were held.

Thus both veterinarians and surgeons rose to become closer to the university-educated men (physician, lawyer and cleric) and so increased the proportion of professional careers open to the prosperous child or ambitious parent. A similar process was experienced by engineers, architects and artists, who all indentured apprentices with greatly enhanced premiums by the late eighteenth century. At the same period the tertiary occupations, particularly in finance, expanded and grew, providing a new range of careers for boys from a prosperous background.

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