Surviving old age: coping strategies of the elderly labouring poor in Gent, Brussels and Antwerp, 1750-1850.

Project Details


This project aims to gain insight into the ways in which the elderly labouring poor were able to cope with the challenges of old age during Europe’s transition from pre-industrial to industrial society. The main goal is to study how their coping potential and resilience, by means of survival strategies and care or relief networks, was facilitated or impeded by this societal transition on the one hand and local context on the other. This will be done by means of a comparative study, retracing the elderly’s makeshift economies in the cities of Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels in the period 1750-1850. The impact of shifts in (1) local economy and labour market, (2) formal relief provisions and (3) social networks and family structures on these elderly’s individual agency and survival strategies will be examined, by focussing on the main components that constituted their makeshift economy, (a) labour, (b) formal relief, and (c) informal reciprocity (more specifically co-residence and credit relations). The results will not only deepen our understanding of the interplay between structural shifts, local contexts and individual agency among the growing group of elderly poor in this period, but will also contribute to the debate on purported long-term shifts from family to community as the so-called locus of care in European society.
Effective start/end date1/10/1730/09/21


  • Elderly

Flemish discipline codes in use since 2023

  • Labour and demographic economics


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.