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THE CONTRACT OF APPRENTICESHIP.
THE contract of apprenticeship is one whereby one person called "the apprentice" undertakes to learn, and another person called the master" undertakes to teach some profession or trade.
The origin of apprenticeship contracts is somewhat vague, but it probably arose in the Middle Ages as a part of the system of the guilds and corporations of skilled trades, and the term "apprentice" was applied equally to those being taught a skilled trade or a learned profession such as medicine or law. The usual term of service during the Middle Ages was seven years, and after this period the apprentice became a member of his guild or corporation, fully at liberty to practise his profession and to take in his turn other apprentices.
The contract of apprenticeship is first noticed in English Acts of Parliament towards the close of the fourteenth century (12 Ric. 2, c. 3). In the reign of Elizabeth it was enacted that no person should exercise a trade without having served a seven years' apprenticeship (5 Eliz. c. 4). This provision was later on thought to prove conducive to monopolies and restrictions on the freedom of trade, and it was wholly repealed in the reign of George III. (54 Geo. 3, c. 96). Experience has since, however, shown that the only effectual means of acquiring such a knowledge of a trade or profession as will enable a man to exercise it with advantage, is a system of regular training, and in the case of all the learned professions,
apprenticeship or its equivalent is now the rule. This is, however, unfortunately not the case in all skilled trades, but modern opinion is now tending that way, as it becomes clearer every day that the regularly trained artizan is the only one whose work can be relied on.
A master may at common law have any number of apprentices, but the rules of certain trade unions prevent more than a limited number of apprentices being bound to one master. (And see Appendix IV.)