Changing infrastructures of transient migration: The impact of transport revolutions on the urban fabric in the Low Countries, 18th-19th c.

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceUnpublished paper


This paper analyses the effects of techno-nature on people’s interactions with urban fabric, shifting the
lens from citizens and inhabitants to a more dynamic view of people passing through, the ever-changing
but ever-present category of transient migrants. Historians have had difficulties getting a grip on
mobility in the past. Research so far has mostly focused on specific ethnic-cultural or professional
groups, obscuring the larger picture of changes in mobility over time. The large dark number of
migrations and moves that went unregistered moreover has complicated the research of a mobility
transition. More recently, a spatial-historical approach has developed, innovating the field and creating
new debates on spaces of arrival. This research proposes to take this approach a step further, analysing
the infrastructures accompanying, stimulating, regulating or limiting mobility by focusing on urban
infrastructures for transient migration. This paper explores the possibilities of techno-natural approaches
to migration history in the context of the research project Just Passing Through? Urban Infrastructures
of Transient Migration in the Low Countries 1780-1870. It presents work in progress, exploring possible
routes for research by discussing debates in fields of migration, travel and transport history and exploring
sources from archival research in the eighteenth and nineteenth century Low Countries, a highly
urbanised region. It analyses the changes in migration infrastructures in the context of transport
revolutions, a highly debated mobility transition, and changes in the framework of migration, such as
state formation, urbanisation and changing labour markets. It focuses on cities as nodes in their transport
networks, changing and varying from barges to paved roads and railways. This paper focuses
specifically on transport technologies, landscape and water as non-human agents setting the framework
for mobility and for the migration infrastructures, such as changing routes, access points to the city and
locations of accommodation. The goal is to highlight a few streams of thought and to explore pathways
for further research, eventually creating a new research agenda for migration history.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 28 Jan 2021
EventTechno-Natures and Urban Transformations - Online event organised by the University of Aarhus, Denmark, Aarhus, Denmark
Duration: 27 Jan 202128 Jan 2021


SeminarTechno-Natures and Urban Transformations
Internet address


  • Transient Migration
  • Transport History
  • Urban History
  • 18th-19th centuries
  • Low Countries


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