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Historisk tidskrift 132:2 • 2012

Innehåll (Contents) 2012:2

Uppsatser (Articles)

Privilegierade eller kringskurna? Hantverkaränkor i Linköping och Norrköping 1750–1800

Dag Lindström


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Privileged or restricted? Craftsmen’s widows in Linköping and Norrköping (Sweden) 1750–1800

Many craft guilds in Medieval and Early Modern Europe allowed widows to keep their husband’s workshop. It has been debated if craftmen’s widows were a privileged group with a relatively favored position or if the craft guild in fact placed restrictions on them and hindered widows from running independent businesses. This study of craftsmen’s widows in two Swedish provincial towns (Linköping and Norrköping), 1750–1800, demonstrates that only a minority (12–36 %) of the craftsmen’s widows continued to run a workshop and that not more than 1–11 % of the workshops belonged to widows.

International research has often emphasized that widows were obliged to hire journeymen but forbidden from having apprentices. This study reaches a different result. It is true that it was more common for widows than for masters to hire a journeyman, but three out of ten widows in 1750 had no journeyman while as many as six out of ten widows had an apprentice in their workshop. In fact, it was almost as common for widows as for the masters to have an apprentice.

An important question is whether widows kept their workshops only for a limited time or if they ran their businesses on a more long-term basis. A cohort of 21 widows with workshops in 1750 has been analyzed to answer this. Within two years, 13 of them had abandoned their independent craft business. In many of these cases the workshop had been transferred to a son, a new husband or a son in law. The other eight widows, on the other hand, retained their business for at least five years. Four of them even continued in business over ten years. These results show that it is difficult to generalize about craftsmen’s widows and their prospects: They also indicate that there were distinctive alternatives of action for widows to choose between. Keeping the workshop was one option, but this was not necessarily the best option for everyone.