For at least a hundred years apprenticeship has had a bad press, coloured by such notorious abuses as the sweated and brutal occupations, but also by the disapproving use of the word for unruly youths, equivalent in the present day to “students”. However, as an institution it reflects the social history of England to a remarkable degree. Apprenticeship mirrored the change from handicraft, domestic skills to mass-produced, factory goods, it indicated new consumption patterns and above all it failed in responding to England’s population growth from the eighteenth century onwards. Its early status of near-fostering, individually arranged, to provide a worthwhile livelihood for a minority was converted into the “cartloads” of very young children transported to distant factories, still, however, called apprentices. The basic faults of apprenticeship changed little. It was inflexible, taking seven years to produce a skilled worker; the child’s choice was minimal and parental choice was limited by finance; it was highly traditional, with few opportunities for innovations, and when there were rapid changes in the economy or society, it virtually collapsed, to be replaced by formal education. It had failed by the nineteenth century when it was used as a device of the Poor Law officials to be rid of large numbers of pauper children, who were to be indentured beyond the parish, to reduce the poor rate. The numbers of children bound to housewifery, husbandry and large-scale industry brought apprenticeship into disrepute and what had been effective and respected for a minority was deplored when perverted into a poor relief stratagem. It is also possible that the entry of large numbers of female apprentices, most into the sweated occupations, diminished the status of apprenticeship generally, although there had always been a small group of trades to which non-poor girls could be admitted, with future career prospects.