During the 18th century the Compagnonnage expanded to more crafts and it came into conflict with the corporation masters. The geographical spread of the craft brotherhoods evolved to a more specific pattern: along the Loire valley, the Atlantic coastline between Nantes and Bordeaux, along the Garonne river, in Languedoc, Provence, up the Rhône valley, in Burgundy, Champagne and Paris. To the craft brotherhoods mentioned for the preceding century, we know from judicial archives that there were now compagnons among the tanners, chamois-bleachers, stove-makers, glaziers, harness-makers, roofers, cloth-shearers, dyers, rope-makers, edge-tool-makers, linen-weavers and plasterers.
During the first half of the century, a second brotherhood of stonemasons appeared: they called themselves ‘Compagnons Etrangers’, and walked under the banner of King Solomon. All these associations offered assistance to their members, facilitated their hiring, initiated them to secret rites and wrote rules that regulated their lives. Gavots, Etrangers and other dissenters from the Devoir, and also outsiders who were impervious to Compagnonnage, were permanently met with the hostility of the brotherhoods ‘du Devoir’; even among the latter, brawls flared up on questions of precedence or practices deemed too similar (and therefore stolen).
The craft brotherhoods strove to get the monopoly of placement in the towns where they were based, circumventing the corporations. They negotiated the salaries collectively and could put pressure on non-compliant employers by putting a ban on their workshop, obliging them to hire less qualifed labour (when these ones were not actively ‘discouraged’ to get hired). In 1768-69 the entire city of Dijon was banned by the compagnon joiners following a cut in the portion of wine served at their midday meals.
Brawls and disturbances abounded during this century. Compagnons’ brotherhoods resembled workers’ unions. Multiple police edicts tried to suppress them and forbid inn-keepers to call themselves ‘père’ and ‘mère’ of the compagnons. In spite of the condemnations of their outbursts, the Compagnonnage was looked upon with some tolerance by the authorities and the masters as they constituted an indispensable skilled labour force, especially on building sites of large dimensions.
The Revolution was not favourable to the movement: the Le Chapelier law (1791) forbade all kind of association among workers or masters. Nevertheless, the Compagnonnage went through this period without its brotherhoods dissolving, but they came out of it transformed.