Skip to main content

CEP discussion paper

Networks in the Premodern Economy: the Market for London Apprenticeships, 1600-1749


This paper examines the importance of social and geographical networks in structuring entry into skilled occupations in premodern London. Using newly digitised records of those beginning an apprenticeship in London between 1600 and 1749, we find little evidence that networks strongly shaped apprentice recruitment. The typical London apprentice did not have an identifiable connection to his master in the form of a kin link, shared name, or shared place or county of origin. The majority of migrant apprentices’ fathers came from outside of the craft sector. Our results suggest that the market for apprenticeship was strikingly open: well-to-do families of all types were able to access a wide range of craft and trade apprenticeships, and would-be apprentices had considerable scope to match their perceived ability and aptitude to opportunity.


Tim Leunig, Chris Minns and Patrick Wallis

November 2009     Paper Number CEPDP0956

Download PDF - Networks in the Premodern Economy: the Market for London Apprenticeships, 1600-1749

This CEP discussion paper is published under the centre's Growth programme.