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On related lines, 1) How would a young person (young man) have selected a master with whom to apprentice? How did the matching up process work?

2) What motivated a master/practitioner to take on an apprentice?

3) I realize that people usually lived and died quite close to home, but how would someone go about joining a guild or taking up a trade in a new city/place if they did move?

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1) Generally he wouldn't; his parents would find someone to give him employment. Family connections were key.

2) Free labor. Apprentices worked for you at essentially no wages; there were almost no limits on the surplus value the master could extract from the apprentice and almost no oversight. Update @jwenting points out that the relationship between master and apprentice is more complex than I've presented here. He's correct: I'm going to incorporate his answer here with full credit

a master who'd not spend time and means to train his apprentice would get no benefit from him beyond unskilled labour. And the master had the added cost of housing, feeding, and clothing the apprentice as well. They might not get paid (a lot) in cash, but they were paid in free lodging and meals, Of course the quality of those accommodations was highly variable, some masters treated apprentices pretty much like slaves, others treated them well and some apprentices would end up inheriting their master's operation upon his death. jwenting

3) Read Ken Follet's historical novels. Huge generalization, but your best bet is to apprentice with someone local and then be sent off to another master for journeyman training.

Yes, this has no sources and is therefore a bad answer. I haven't researched the guild system deeply, but my impression is that everything said about guilds is an overly broad generalization that is meaningful only as an ex post facto academic generalization for analytical purposes. Real understanding of the guilds would require research into a specific guild in a specific city at a specific time.

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    well, a master who'd not spend time and means to train his apprentice would get no benefit from him beyond unskilled labour. And the master had the added cost of housing, feeding, and clothing the apprentice as well. They might not get paid (a lot) in cash, but they were paid in free lodging and meals, Of course the quality of those accommodations was highly variable, some masters treated apprentices pretty much like slaves, others treated them well and some apprentices would end up inheriting their master's operation upon his death. – jwenting Sep 9 '15 at 5:44
  • Also, I was told at school that apprentices would have to pass an examination by other guild members which would evaluate their work. Of course, those guild members would be in the future competing with whoever they approved, so unless you were son of an already stablished member your chances were pretty thin. – SJuan76 Sep 9 '15 at 12:04
  • I think that is a reasonable model for top level understanding. Whited's law: "it's a little more complicated than that" Sometimes there is patronage/clientilism, sometimes the Journeyman can be sent far away, sometimes there are external political forces, sometimes familial forces, sometimes there is the occasional master with integrity. Sometimes the promotion is a formality. Your point is good, but unless OP needs a merely superficial overview, OP should select a specific guild at a specific time in a specific country. – Mark C. Wallace Sep 9 '15 at 12:14
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    @jwenting There were rules explicitly forbidding menial tasks ('fetching water') being given to apprentices although I doubt they were universally observed. Yes it was quite common for apprentices to join their master's business once they were guild members. – TheMathemagician Sep 9 '15 at 14:34
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    @SJuan76 The production of a "masterwork" to distinguish between ordinary guild members and masters came in much later (c 16th century) after the guild system had been running for several centuries. Apprentices who completed the training were accepted into the guild - you didn't fail. – TheMathemagician Sep 9 '15 at 14:36
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I only know about the London guild system but his family would arrange it because it required a considerable payment to the master. Contracts were drawn up by the relevant guild then confirmed at the Guildhall. Apprenticeships were taken pretty seriously and the master could not just use the apprentice as cheap labour. Some tasks such as 'fetching water' were not to be given to apprentices as they were classed as 'servants work' although in practice I imagine there was some leeway.

The master had a responsibility to train the apprentice in the 'mysteries of the craft' and after a set period (never longer than seven years) the apprentice would be admitted as a member of the guild. It was common to end the apprenticeship up to a year early on payment of a further fee to the master and, of course, admin fee to the guild. Many former apprentices continued working for their masters on 'graduation' only now they got paid a salary or had some share in the business. They were free however to work for any guild member or set up on their own.

Minor disputes were settled within the guild but major breakdowns in the relationship were brought before the Mayor's Court and many accounts survive. Having read through several I would say that the apprentices got a very fair hearing despite their relative underdog status. Only the most egregious cases of master bad behaviour may have come to the court though.

The distinction between a journeyman guild member (paid by the day) and a master came in much later (16th century) with a "masterwork" having to be produced. It was a response to overcrowding in some guilds but never universal.

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