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Imperial Trade Ordinance [Reichshandwerksordnung] (August 16, 1731)

This ordinance required journeymen to submit their birth certificates and Lehrbriefe (proof of having fulfilled their apprenticeships) to employers as evidence of good behavior. It attempted to enforce the Imperial Policey-Ordnungen (policy decrees) of 1548 and 1577 forbidding the exclusion of children born out of wedlock and children of practitioners of “dishonorable trades” from the artisan trades, though a partial exception was made for the offspring of animal skinners [Schinder]. It also forbade strikes, protest demonstrations, and uprisings, on pain of death, and abolished “blue Monday” (i.e., artisan laborers’ illegal collective boycotting of work on Mondays). The ordinance also threatened insubordinate guilds with dissolution. It declared wages excessively high, and instructed Imperial organs at the level of the Imperial Circles to issue new wage guidelines. But the multi-principality Imperial Circles wielded no means of enforcement, which left the challenge of disciplining the insubordination-prone artisanate to the various territorial states, which proceeded cautiously and pragmatically in dealing with the time-honored guilds.

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