Statute of Artificers (1563)


`The Statute of Artificers (usually called the Statute of Apprentices) was passed in 1563 and remained on the Statute Book until 1819; the Poor Law Act of 1601 - which provided for much else besides poor relief - remained largely operative until the C20. Between them, these Acts attempted `to banish idleness, to advance husbandry and to yield to the hired person, both in times of scarcity and in times of plenty, a convenient proportion of wages'.
They controlled entry into the class of skilled workmen by providing a compulsory seven years' apprenticeship; they reserved the superior trades for the sons of the better off; they assumed a universal duty to work on all the able-bodied; and empowered justices to require unemployed artificers to work in husbandry; they required permission for a workman to transfer from one employer to another; they severely restricted the freedom of movement of the poor by enabling a person without means to be removed, by order of the justices, to his original parish or last place of settlement; and they empowered justices to fix wage rates for virtually all classes of workmen.'

Source: "The Rise and Fall of Freedom of Contract," by P.S. Atiyah, D.C.L., F.B.A., Professor of English Law and Fellow of St John's College in the University of Oxford. Clarendon Press, Oxford.