A Handbook of Industrial Districts
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A Handbook of Industrial Districts

Edited by Giacomo Becattini, Marco Bellandi and Lisa De Propis

In this comprehensive original reference work, the editors have brought together an unrivalled group of distinguished scholars and practitioners to comment on the historical and contemporary role of industrial districts (IDs).
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Chapter 3: Apprenticeship and Technical Schools in the Formation of Industrial Districts

Elisabetta Merlo


Elisabetta Merlo 1. Introduction Since industrial districts (IDs) have been discovered as units of analysis by economists and sociologists, economic historians have been increasingly re quested to give their own contribution to the explanation of the emergence of concentrations of highly-specialised firms which benefit from skilled labour, sup pliers, information, along with services provided by a large variety of associaions t and institutions, usually located within the district itself. This chapter focuses on some historical evidence on the role played by apprentice hip and technical s schools in the formation of the Marshallian industrial atmosphere which helped the emergence of some IDs. Indeed, the rich literature devoted to the study of the organisation of the European urban economies in the preindustrial age depicts a social and institutional environ ent that paved the way for the subsequent m achievements or failures in the development of the IDs. Accordingly the importance of urban guilds and technical schools will be analysed in order to investigate if: (a) they really acted as the repository of a community’s business, technological, legal and material culture that seems to be a distinctive feature of the IDs still today; and (b) if they were actively involved in building up cohesive and durable (or weak and transitory) epistemic commu nities (Håkanson 2005). This concept is borrowed by the economic literature and applicable to networks of knowledge in which membership is obtained – typi cally through some combination both of formal and on-the-job training and tacit as well as codified...

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