Subtypes Guilds - Journeymen's Organizations - The Netherlands and Belgium

Journeymen’s boxes in the Dutch Republic were occupationally bound mutual aid funds, which provided (financial) aid in times of need and were not directed towards conviviality or the promotion of the journeymen’s economic interests. They were founded between 1450 and 1820, with one-third of them being founded in the first half of the eighteenth century. In exchange for an entrance fee and weekly or monthly contributions, the members received aid – either financial or in kind – for funerals and in case of sickness, and sometimes in case of old age or disability. Funeral benefits and sickness benefits were the most common. Characteristic of these boxes was that they offered an all-in-one package of the mentioned life risks, on the basis of the paid contribution and the financial situation of the box (Bos, 1998, 19-24; 338-40; 343; Bos, 2006, 179-81).

The foundation of journeymen’s boxes flourished in the eighteenth century when the economy slumped and employment opportunities diminished. Not only did income security become less certain; the chances of journeymen reaching the status of guild master became slim, as did their opportunities to enter a guild. These changes provided an incentive to journeymen to start their own associations. However, most city authorities did not allow the foundation of journeymen’s guilds, because they feared that the organization of this growing and increasingly marginalized group could lead to disturbances. The organization of journeymen into journeymen’s boxes – mutual aid funds without political, economic or even (real) social power – was allowed, because this alleviated the city’s poor relief funds (Van der Vleuten and Van Zanden, 2010, 6-9). Their existence has been confused with journeymen’s guilds because the Dutch term knechtsgilde (literally journeymen’s guild), was used for both journeymen’s guilds as well as journeymen’s boxes (Timmer, 1913, 10-1). These journeymen’s boxes were independent from journeymen’s guilds, however, and therefore differed from boxes for journeymen in other countries, which only existed within journeymen’s guilds.



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