Should they stay or should they go now? The discretionary character of poor relief, settlement and removal in the Low Countries

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Abstract

Poor migrants in early modern Europe were often sent away to their place of origin to prevent them from becoming a burden on their place of residence. The laws of ‘settlement’ determined to which place they had to return to apply for poor relief. Despite increasing centralisation, and even the introduction of national legislation in the nineteenth century, settlement remained framed within the local parish or municipality. This paper argues that continuity existed in local belonging and the autonomy of local communities in negotiations on the removal of migrants. It analyses why some migrants were ‘removed’ and others were not, and to which extent and why local communities deviated from legislation. Analysing case studies of eighteenth-century Flanders, which have been particularly well documented, helps to place the predominantly anglocentric historiography on settlement and removal in a broader framework and also helps to further our understanding of the systems of inclusion and exclusion of migrants.


This article is part of the special issue 'Political Change and Civic Continuities in the Age of Revolutions'.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-71
Number of pages24
JournalBMGN - Low Countries Historical Review
Volume133
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018

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