Journeymen’s organizations

Where craft guilds and masters are found, journeymen cannot be far away. The guild monopoly always linked journeymen’s laborious existence in some way to the craft guild. Yet this does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that journeymen could share in the advantages and benefits of their master’s guild. More often than not, only full members, a.k.a. masters, could profit from the social benefits the guild offered. This gave journeymen the incentive to start forming their own organizations. The relation between journeymen and the guild can be roughly divided into two categories. In the first category, masters allowed journeymen to take part in the activities of the craft guild, be it religious or social, and journeymen were entitled to profit from the benefits provided by the guild box. This was, however, uncommon, and the excluded journeymen had to seek their religious, convivial and social networks and security elsewhere. They started forming their own organizations, separate from the masters’ craft guild. These organizations were either journeymen’s guilds, or in the case of the Netherlands where this was impossible, journeymen’s boxes (see ‘journeymen’s boxes in the Netherlands’. Journeymen’s guilds provided joint religious praise, sociability, a travel network, mutual aid and advocated the economic interests of journeymen. Because of the guild monopoly granted to the (master) craft guild by the local authorities, journeymen’s guilds were always in some way – whether officially documented or not – linked to the craft guilds of their masters. The Dutch journeymens boxes were occupationally bound mutual aid funds, which provided (financial) aid in times of need specifically to journeymen. They did not serve economic or social purposes and provided no form of conviviality, but purely offered support to their members in times of need (Bos 2006, 37; 53-4; 172; Thijs 2006).

The table beneath gives an overview of the types of journeymen’s organizations per country, the type of members of these organizations, as well as the activities these organizations were participating in. Two types can be discerned:

  • Type 1: Craft guilds allow journeymen to join and take part in the benefits.
  • Type 2: Journeymen guilds are separated and they start organizing their own social benefits.

Clicking on the name of the country will lead you to the description of the journeymen’s organizations for that specific country.

Country TypeLocal name of journeymen’s guilds MembersType of activities the organization participated in 
 Religious ConvivialityFuneral aid; incidental aid Structural aid (e.g. sickness benefit) Tramping assistance 
The Netherlands
Type 1Mastersand Journeymen 
Type 2KnechtsbussenJourneymen(sometimes Masters)     
Type 1Mastersand Journeymen 
Type 2KnechtsbussenJourneymen(sometimes Masters)   
Type 1       
Type 2Journeymen’s associatonsJourneymen √  
Type 1      
Type 2ConfrèriesJourneymen √  
Type 2CompagnonnagesJourneymen√  
Type 1       
Type 2GesellenverbändeJourneymen±√  
√ = structural participation of guild in this type of activity;
± = sometimes participation of guild in this type of activity