Artists or Beggars? Itinerant Entertainers and Popular Culture in Brabant (1750-1914)

  • Winter, Anne (Administrative Promotor)
  • Vanruysseveldt, Vicky, (Mandate)

Project Details


This project aims to gain insight into the migration patterns, income strategies and cultural repertoires
of itinerant entertainers in Brabant in the 'long nineteenth century' (1750-1914). Making their living
with public performances ranging from singing, making music, acting and puppetry to acrobatics and
bear dancing, they travelled over short and long distances with their shows and brought entertainment
to people who did or did not have regular access to amusement. The transition from preindustrial to
industrial society confronted them with new opportunities and constraints, inciting permanent
adaptations of their trajectories and shows. While they are often dismissed sideways as folklorist
remnants of a bygone age or as 'beggars in disguise', this research aims to explore the relative success
of their cultural repertoires and income strategies in their own right in a period of societal
transformation. Using repressive sources on the one hand and requests and permissions for itinerant
performances on the other hand as the main source materials, this research project aims to establish a
balanced, comparative and long-term view on both the relative success of their survival strategies and
their cultural importance during the transition from preindustrial to industrial society, with due
attention for dynamics of social differentiation, professionalization, commercialisation, the expansion
of urban leisure facilities and changing migration policies.
Effective start/end date1/10/1230/09/16


  • migration history

Flemish discipline codes

  • Other philosophy, ethics and religious studies not elsewhere classified