Historical geographies of apprenticeship: rethinking and retracing craft conveyance over time and place

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Geographers are demonstrating increasing interest in the power and significance of craft and artisanal practices. However within this scholarship very little attention has been paid to theorising or tracing the conveyance of craft practices over time and place. This paper seeks to address this deficit by demonstrating how craft conveyance has been achieved through historical geographies of apprenticeship. To do so the paper firstly reviews how the figure of the apprentice and the forms and geographies apprenticeship have been recently reconfigured. Secondly, and by drawing on the work of anthropologists and geographers, it argues that the model of learning between master and apprentice is more dynamic, relational and context-dependant than that espoused in Richard Sennett’s seminal text on craftsmanship. Moreover while geographers have begun to think through how craft practices become sedimented in place over successive generations, the main contribution of this paper is to think and work through how craft practices travel from place to place over successive generations. Specifically this is to examine how the corporeal and material practices of a workshop gain not just temporal duration but also spatial extension. This will be achieved empirically by retracing how the ‘Wardian-style’ of taxidermy practice travelled from London to Glasgow through the movements of Wardian apprentice Charles Kirk. Following non-representational theorisations of practice, and what I shall term the ‘journeyings’ of Kirk, the paper demonstrates that rather than passively absorbing the ‘secrets’ of a workshop the apprentice actively co- and re-produces its corporeal and material practices and carries them forward where they are actively reworked into and by new communities and ecologies of practice. The paper concludes by emphasising the relevance and resonance of apprenticeship for rethinking and retracing craft conveyance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-43
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Historical Geography
Early online date20 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017


  • Apprenticeship
  • Journeyman
  • Craft Conveyance
  • Learning
  • Taxidermy
  • Workshop
  • Practice


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