Labour, law and training in early modern London: apprenticeship and the city’s institutions
Successful apprenticeship is often explained by effective contract enforcement. But what happened when enforcement was weak? This paper reveals that within early modern London, England’s dominant centre for training, the city’s court provided apprentices with near automatic exits from their indentures, and allowed them to recover a share of their premium, reflecting faults and time served. Between 3 and 8 percent of apprentices received court discharges. Easy dissolution was a response to unstable contracts. By supplying a straightforward mechanism to cut legal ties, the city reduced the risks surrounding apprenticeship and facilitated London’s rapid expansion.
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