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Becoming a London goldsmith in the seventeenth century: social capital and mobility of apprentices and masters of the guild


  • Schwarzberg, Raphaelle


Social capital has been used to describe the links between guildsmen in pre-industrial times. However, contemporary historical research has shown that both English society and the guilds displayed more openness to newcomers than had been previously thought. This new perspective however does not preclude the use of social ties by individuals to gain a competitive advantage, as potential apprentices to find a master, or as Freemen to climb the ladder of power within the guilds. This dissertation will enquire into what type of social capital was used and by whom predominantly in the Goldsmiths’ Company. It rests on the creation of a new data set of fifty-seven masters who practiced their trade in the second half of the seventeenth century. Social capital will be analyzed according to geographical proximity, occupational proximity and kinship as they manifested in social networks. Results indicate that on the one hand, the Goldsmiths’ Company was on the whole open to individuals with no previous contacts through geographical proximity, occupational proximity or kin. The openness must however be nuanced with respect to the rural and poor apprentices as well as women. On the other hand, internal mobility within the guild highly depended on the belonging to a sub-group of goldsmiths who were practising banking activities. These findings confirm the recent literature on openness but bring new light to the processes of mobility and social capital within the guild of the London Goldsmiths’ Company.

Suggested Citation

  • Schwarzberg, Raphaelle, 2010. "Becoming a London goldsmith in the seventeenth century: social capital and mobility of apprentices and masters of the guild," Economic History Working Papers 28446, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:28446

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stephen Knack & Philip Keefer, 1997. "Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross-Country Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1251-1288.
    2. J. R. Kellett, 1958. "The Breakdown Of Gild And Corporation Control Over The Handicraft And Retail Trade In London," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 10(3), pages 381-394, April.
    3. Joel Sobel, 2002. "Can We Trust Social Capital?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(1), pages 139-154, March.
    4. Temin, Peter & Voth, Hans-Joachim, 2006. "Banking as an emerging technology: Hoare's Bank, 1702 1742," Financial History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(02), pages 149-178, October.
    5. Grassby,Richard, 1995. "The Business Community of Seventeenth-Century England," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521434508, August.
    6. Ogilvie Sheilagh, 2005. "The Use and Abuse of Trust: Social Capital and its Deployment by Early Modern Guilds," Jahrbuch für Wirtschaftsgeschichte / Economic History Yearbook, De Gruyter, vol. 46(1), pages 15-52, June.
    7. Dudley Baines, 1994. "European emigration, 1815-1930: looking at the emigration decision again," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 47(3), pages 525-544, August.
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    JEL classification:

    • N0 - Economic History - - General
    • O52 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Europe
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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