Poor migrants or strange labourers? Rural-urban relations in migration regulation in eighteenth century Flanders

Arme migranten of vreemde arbeiders? Stad-platteland relaties in de regulering van migratie in achttiende-eeuws Vlaanderen
Start - End 
2016 - 2016 (ongoing)
Department of History
Other institution(s) 
Onderzoeksgroep HOST, Departement Geschiedenis, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Research Focus 
Additional tags 
Social history
Eighteenth century
Poor relief



In the course of the eighteenth century, migration and poor relief became subjects of great concern to local, regional and central governments in the Southern Netherlands. Especially controversial was the question to what extent and under which conditions ‘strangers’ were able to claim local care provisions that were essentially reserved for the ‘own’ poor. The regulations and actual practices of dealing with the newcomers’ needs and claims influenced the survival strategies and migration opportunities of poor people. These issues have scarcely been researched for the Southern Netherlands; in contrast to for example the English and German regions. This doctoral thesis will explore the field of tension between migration and poor relief during a period in which local, regional and central governments developed new strategies to cope with the problems of increasing labour mobility and pauperisation. The research will specifically focus on the Concordat of Ypres, a multilateral agreement concerning migration and poor relief. Several villages, cities and regions in Flanders, Hainaut and French Flanders joined this agreement in the second half of the eighteenth century, but it was unbound only several decades afterwards. The research concentrates on the reasons and motives for creating the agreement, its functioning, the modes of deliberation and decision-making, the implications for migration decisions of poor inhabitants and the reasons for the eventual dissolution of the concordat. Employing an international comparative perspective, the project wants to contribute to the social-political history of the Austrian Netherlands and to the broader historical and present day debate on the relations between migration and poor relief.



Phd Student(s)


Anne Winter