Food and Social Reform: People’s Kitchens in the Low Countries (1860s-1914)

Tyssens, J. (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationTalk at a public lecture/debate


In the 1860s new ideas of offering cheap food to the poor made way in different circles of social reformers in Belgium and the Netherlands. Instead of occasionally donating free food to the indigent, as classical charity would have it, several reform oriented groups and individuals wanted to construct a new style of philanthropy: processed food would not be given but sold at low prices, preferably to working men, in people’s restaurants (usually called “volksgaarkeukens” or “fourneaux économiques”) that were to operate on a permanent basis. Who fostered these local social reform initiatives? Do we meet the usual suspects or can we see less known people or voluntary societies operating in this field? What ideas motivated their intervention with regard to this particular matter? How were these people’s kitchens organized? What kind of food was on the menu and who was actually consuming it? By means of case studies treating both the north and the south, Brussels historian Jeffrey Tyssens sheds light on this understudied aspect of the social policies organized locally in different urban settings in the second half of the 19th century.
Period7 Dec 2017
Held atLeiden University, Netherlands
Degree of RecognitionInternational