The Working Classes in Revolutionary France

Compagnonnages: Organizing Work



  • 1830 / 1832

  • 1848

    Works Cited

  • Compagnonnages Effect on Revolutionary Workers
    Compagnonnages were illegal, but tolerated, nationwide organizations of skilled workers. Throughout French history workers have belonged to compagnonnages, but in 1789 and 1830 these organizations played a role in the workers' revolutionary politics.
    Compagnonnages contributed to the workers skill and efficiency as revolutionaries:
    • Taught workers values necassary for the revolution era
      • excellent school of brotherhood, teamwork, and fighting
    • A former compagnon du devoir de libertie, Agricol Perdiguier, stated in Memoirs d'un compagnon that "in each compagnonnage, we learned to handle the cane, the baton, to knock out our man promptly. The strongest, bravest, most terrifying were the most celebated, the best liked of compagnons . . . compagnons were warriors, compagnonnnages were enemy armies, rival nationalities who dreamed only of crushing one another" (Perdiguier, 90).


    The Profile of a Compagnon

    • Usually young and single
    • Believed in virility and strength, which often led to fights between members of various compagnonnages
      • Fights could be over many conflicts, such as jobs or issues concerning honor
    • Spent their money rather than saved
    • Transient, and often moved from job to job

    Compagnons Relation to Masters

    The compagnons demanded the most respect from their masters. They took action against those that did not live up to their expectations. Compagnons believed that a good master was "someone who was skilled, worked alongside his journeymen and who created 'intamicy' by buying drinks and inviting his workers to eat at his table" (Magraw, 23). An employer, or master, who treated workers as equals were worth their respect.

    Most masters supported the compagnons; they "argued that the guilds should remain hierarhcical and maintain powers to police the trades and to control journeymen" (Magraw, 23). During the late eighteenth century, masters "foresaw the collapse of apprenticeship, the erosion of quality levels of French industry, the threat to the old skills and the ultimate demise of craft culture" Magraw, 24). The master's concerns would be a large issue in the revolution of 1830.