Policing mobility. Daily interactions between the Brussels police and 'marginal migrants', c. 1880-1914.

Project Details


This project aims to investigate police practices of migration control in the city of Brussels during a period of profound urban change, intense mobility and increased efforts of social control. By investigating day-to-day practices of street-level policing together with the profiles of those subjected to this, we will analyse the extent to which markers of 'strangeness' resulted in differential treatment of certain migrant groups by the police, taking into account interactions with other markers such as age, gender or social class. Particular attention goes to police interactions with 'marginal migrants': mobile
poor targeted by vagrancy legislation and other laws of social control. The central question is how the Brussels municipal police implemented the legal framework on mobility regulation that was enacted in the closing decades of the long nineteenth century and how this shaped their day-to-day relations with the urban population
in general, and mobile groups in particular. Drawing on a broad range of police archives and using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, the project revolves around practices of the police, profiles of those policed, places of interactions and agency of both policemen and migrants. This will provide new insights into how the state, in its efforts to maintain social stability through its lowest level in the street in a time of profound urban transformation, interfered in the lives of people, and marginal migrants in particular.
Effective start/end date1/11/1931/10/21


  • Police History
  • migration
  • Urbanisation

Flemish discipline codes

  • Modern and contemporary history
  • Regional and urban history
  • Socio-economic history