Travelling without risks? Itinerant entertainers in the Duchy of Brabant and their uses of passports at the end of the eighteenth century

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This article examines the uses of passports among itinerant entertainers travelling through the Duchy of Brabant. Making their living with public performances ranging from singing, making music, acting and puppetry to acrobatics and bear dancing, they travelled on a daily, weekly or monthly basis over short and long distances with their shows. Their high level of mobility met with multiple restrictions imposed by the authorities. Travellers with little or no means were often arrested for vagrancy or begging on the charge of having no fixed residence or a steady job. Passports could help itinerant entertainers preventing their possible arrest. This article addresses the question how ambulant entertainers made use of passports for their travels. To this end I used passport registers on the one hand and vagrancy files of arrested itinerant entertainers on the other hand. The passport registers (available for the cities of Brussels and Antwerp) provide insight into who applied for a passport. Meanwhile, the vagrancy files shed light on entertainers travelling without a passport or with invalid ones. As such, this body of sources provides us with an exceptional insight into the variety of uses of passports by itinerant entertainers in Brabant at the turn of the century.

Originele taal-2English
Pagina's (van-tot)437-450
Aantal pagina's14
TijdschriftCultural and Social History
Volume13
Nummer van het tijdschrift4
DOI's
StatusPublished - 2016

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