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DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405189224.2011.x


Skilled manual workers, distinguished from journeymen through being based in one locality rather than travelling to seek work. Artisans were mainly urban inhabitants, employed in a wide variety of skilled trades (e.g. printing, baking, cobbling, carpentry, blacksmithing, hatmaking, and tailoring), as well as highly specialized occupations such as gold- and silver-smithing. The artisan underwent an apprenticeship, and was often better educated and more literate (see literacy ) than the generality of the popular classes. He was also likely to own his own tools and equipment, renting a small workshop from a local merchant, and enjoying a good relationship with the journeymen vital to his economic wellbeing. Additionally, artisans had a long tradition of organization through guilds, apprenticeships, craft solidarity and labor protests, as well as an identity forged through shared vocabulary and location. Within towns, artisans were usually concentrated in certain districts. They proved extremely adaptable in the face of growing economic pressures, notably those posed by industrialization . Though reasonably affluent, especially when compared to those employed in domestic service and large-scale industry, artisans were subject to economic fluctuations such as food-price inflation due to bad harvests. The rising cost of bread often consumed what little surplus income they enjoyed, meaning ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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