Bargaining for Relief: Migration, Lifecycle and Settlement in Nineteenth-Century Antwerp

Anne Winter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)

Abstract

In the course of the first half of the nineteenth century, several changes in settlement legislation transformed both the incentive structure and the limits & possibilities for local authorities in present-day Belgium to deal with poor migrants. While a gradual lengthening of residential criteria - from one year at the turn of the century, over four years in 1818, to eight years in 1845 - made it increasingly difficult for migrants to acquire a new settlement (and thus entitlement to local poor relief), legal provisos for reclaiming relief disbursements made to non-settled poor from their original place of settlement were at the same time greatly facilitated. The growing dissociation between place of residence and place of settlement, and the increasing incidence of relief 'reimbursements' from the latter to the former, significantly enhanced the scope for bargaining over relief between the Charity Office in migrants' place of residence, that in their place of origin/settlement, and migrants themselves. So far, there is virtually no research on the implications of the ongoing changes in settlement legislation and practice on the lives of the migrant poor in nineteenth-century Belgium. This paper wants to throw some light on the issue by exploring the role of lifecycle in the distribution of relief to settled and non-settled poor in mid-nineteenth century Antwerp, which was then characterised by high immigration and a highly irregular and casual port labour market structure. It focuses on evaluating to what extent lifecycle and family situation affected the bargaining positions of immigrants with regard to the Charity Offices in both their places of residence and of settlement. While a vulnerable lifecycle situation was generally a precondition for relief, old, disabled and child-rich paupers were also among the least valuable ranks of the urban labour force and therefore the most likely to be removed. This consigned sojourners to a delicate stance on lifecycle status when applying for relief. Drawing mainly on distribution lists, settlement examinations, pauper letters, and inter-municipal correspondence, this paper aims to explore the differences in distributive practices towards settled and non-settled poor, and to establish the role of lifecycle and family situation in shaping these differences by affecting the bargaining relations between sojourners, place of residence and that of settlement.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSession “Migrants’ Access to Poor Relief: Policies and Strategies, 1500-1900”, European Social Science History Conference, Gent, 13-16/04/2010
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2010
EventFinds and Results from the Swedish Cyprus Expedition: A Gender Perspective at the Medelhavsmuseet - Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 21 Sep 200925 Sep 2009

Publication series

NameSession “Migrants’ Access to Poor Relief: Policies and Strategies, 1500-1900”, European Social Science History Conference, Gent, 13-16/04/2010

Conference

ConferenceFinds and Results from the Swedish Cyprus Expedition: A Gender Perspective at the Medelhavsmuseet
CountrySweden
CityStockholm
Period21/09/0925/09/09

Keywords

  • Urban History
  • Migration History

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