Van centraal beleid naar lokale praktijk. Het 'probleem' van landloperij en bedelarij in België (1890-1910)

Vicky Vanruysseveldt, Rik Vercammen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines the practical implications of the policy regarding vagrancy and begging in Belgium at the end of the 19th century. It first focuses on the role of the police and justice of the peace in arresting and convicting vagrants and beggars. In fact, a conviction for vagrancy or begging was the result of a long and complex selection process, during which a person was first singled out, then arrested and possibly convicted as vagrant or beggar. Attention is also given to the convicted persons. How did they integrate this system in the course of their lives? To this end, the research draws from contemporary published digit series giving some idea of the extent of the phenomenon, while court judgments and official reports were also used to map the role of the different actors. We come to the conclusion that, at the end of the 19th century, the intensity with which vagrancy and begging were persecuted in Belgium differed considerably from place to place. This can be explained by the specific local contexts in which the different actors were operating. To reveal the role of all the actors as well as the local specificity, the article examines the cases of Antwerp and Brussels, two cities with very different policies. Through the municipal bulletins and the accompanying annual reports, we were able to shed light on the municipal concerns and the local policy concerning vagrancy and begging. Because of the considerable (local) leeway which we could ascertain with regard to the persecution practice of vagrancy and begging, the definition of concepts such as “vagrancy” and “begging” were open to interpretation. Because of the broadness of the definition of these concepts, contemporary historical research must use them with great caution.
Original languageDutch
Pages (from-to)120-161
JournalBelgisch Tijdschrift voor Nieuwste Geschiedenis
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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