Guido Marnef (University of Antwerp)
This session will cover different social groups of urban society such as servants in the service of elite travellers, poor women and elderly people. The questions raised will be developed for different areas - from the Netherlands to Brazil - and for different periods - from the 16th century to the present day. In all papers, the urban fabric is an important variable. Elements such as class relations, opportunities for social mobility, urban policies and the use of urban space play a role.
Servants’ Experience of Cities on the Grand Tour – Opportunity and Competition
Sophie Dunn (University of Liverpool)
Servants, Travel, Employment
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, cities were attractive focal points for servants as they offered a wide range of opportunities. This applies even more so to servants who sought to engage with travellers: British individual elite travellers or entire elite families prepared their journeys in cities like London or reassessed their itineraries in cities along their routes. Servants were hired on the outset or along the road but usually these transactions took place in urban centres. Servants faced both opportunities and strong competition in cities across the continent as travel became more and more a staple in British cultural life. Cities could offer financial stability yet paradoxically, a travelling-servant could only obtain this stability through leaving the city, being hired by a traveller. This paper will assess the opportunities as well as the drawbacks servants encountered in cities with special attention to the differences British and European servants experienced in the service to British employers. This will open a discussion of inequalities in hiring practices, adaptation to challenges, mutual dependencies, and the mitigation of personal preferences in the face of competition. The paper considers questions of social mobility and societal cohesion in urban centres where people of very different qualifications tried to find a living. Gender and class relations and the relationship between servants and employers influence the experience of inequality and neither servants nor employers must be seen as homogenous groups. I will be presenting on new research for my wider postdoctoral project on servants and travel in the long eighteenth century commencing January 2022.
Exclusion and Resistance: Women Migrants in Brasília
Emily Story (Salisbury University)
Women, Migration, Inequality
Women migrated to Brasília in large numbers during the period of the city’s construction (1956-1960), usually accompanying male family members, though sometimes traveling alone. In addition to the labor they provided to support their families and themselves, women migrants struggled to find housing. The press celebrated the contributions made by the men who planned Brasília and, to a lesser extent, the construction workers. They also highlighted to contributions made by a small number of elite women. In contrast, poor women provided essential labor for the construction of the city, but their work went unrecognized. The presence of women living in informal spaces and working in informal occupations undermined the effort to banish informality from the capital—to make it a formal, rational space divided into clearly delineated functional spaces. Women migrants struggled to claim a right to reside in the city they helped build. They asserted their position as workers and claimed their rights as such. They participated in acts of collective and individual action to secure those rights. They achieved some access to housing and services, but remained marginalized, relegated to the periphery rather than the center of the city. Sources used for this paper include testimonies of women migrants to Brasília from the Programa de História Oral do Arquivo Público do Distrito Federal, the 1959 census, newspapers, newsreels, and photographs. It considers how the experience of women migrants to Brasília compares to the experience of migration in other Brazilian cities.
Old Age, Social Mobility and Poverty in South Germany, 17th to 18th Centuries
Ludwig Pelzl (European University Institute, Florence)
Old Age, Social Mobility, Welfare
When we think about inequality, we tend to presuppose that all individuals are in middle age. My paper tries to enrich our understanding of early modern social order by looking at it through a life-cyclic lense. I argue that there was a considerable degree of downwards social mobility in old age which was easily overlooked in traditional accounts on social order. When productivity and thus income from labour decreased through aging, individuals faced the very real risk of slipping into poverty in old age. Family support might have been helped some, but to a considerable portion it was for various reasons unavailable. The process might have been most pronounced among middle class individuals, such as medium and small artisans, who enjoyed decent living standards for most of their adult working life, but could not maintain this when their income from work decreased. I study this phenomenon through the transmission of welfare instititutions in a number of mid-size South German cities in the 17th and 18th century. These devoted the largest share of their resources to maintaining numerous elderly, many of whom paid to receive admission. I want to understand the socio-economic trajectory of these individuals in the decades leading up to old age. In supplication letters, for example, the elderly reflected on their lives and what set on the downwards trajectory. Even through the way some individuals paid for admission helps us assess their former role and status in society, for example by selling their real estate. How can we revaluate inequality and social rank in early modern Europe, if we assume that earning and labour possibilites strongly varied throughout the life cycle?
Gender (In)equality in Early Modern Netherlandish Lottery-Rhymes
Marly Terwisscha van Scheltinga (University of Antwerp)
Gender, Self-fashioning, Lotteries
This paper will look at self-fashioning by urban lottery-participants in the second half of the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth century, with a focus on gender. Most research on gender dynamics in early modern cities has focused on labour and legal status of, especially, women. It is however less clear how these dynamics translated to the way men and women presented themselves in public. Early modern lotteries in the Low Countries required the participant to submit a short text, usually a rhyme, which would be read out on stage during the draw. Often, these lottery-rhymes included a name and/or a description of the participant. This allows us to look at the way both men and women presented themselves when they knew there would be an audience to hear their words. For example, in the 1555 lottery organised by the Church of Our Lady in Bruges – which drew buyers from cities all over the Low Countries -, participants identify by marital status, like ‘een weduwe in Antwerpen zeer clouck’, profession, like ‘Lijsken djonckwijf van Jan Coernes’ and ‘Adam die vischdragher’ or simply by name, like ‘Jacop de grand met zijne zeven kinderen’, ‘Hans van Weerts’ and Liesken vander Wouwen’. How do male and female self-fashioning in lottery-rhymes differ? Do we see more men who mention a profession than women? Do women mention children more frequently than men? What descriptors do men and women use for themselves? Do we see differences between cities in the Southern and Northern Netherlands? The paper will make use of circa 20.000 lottery-rhymes from four different lotteries, with participants from cities as diverse as Antwerp, Groningen, Zierikzee and Amsterdam. The amount and diversity of data allows for a nuanced investigation into early modern self-fashioning by gender.
Against Ageism in the Contemporary City through a Good Urban Design
Rosaria Revellini (Università Iuav di Venezia)
Spatial Ageism, Elderly People Urban Design
Demographic structure has globally changed. The number of over 65 years old people is the fastest growing cohort and there is a big disproportion between the number of elderly and of young people. At the same time, the process of urbanization is increasing fast and it implies multiple consequences both on the built space and on social activities.
In this setting, how do the elderlies live in the contemporary cities and how do they feel? The role of public urban space is crucial in the life of the whole population but even more it is for the elderlies. The Covid-19 experience has corroborated this thesis; in particular it has underlined the importance of urban areas not only for public health but also as an essential catalyst of social activities, without which the elderlies have felt more isolated and lonelier with negative effects on their physical and mental health.
Nevertheless, the Covid-19 pandemic has only brought to light existing issues. In fact, the environmental discrimination theme – can we define it a sort of spatial ageism? – is already known in deprived urban areas where elderly people, more than other cohorts, are not supported in their daily activities. As well, unwelcoming places imply a diseases’ growing and hinder healthy and active ageing.
It’s necessary to move towards age-friendly environments, which should be inclusive places for all according to Agenda 2030 Goals, in order to tackle ageism and guarantee urban equality. The impact of the design of urban environments is strong in elderly people, it affects the perceived sense of security (i.e.: a good street illumination) and then the conducted activities. For example, the elderlies don’t use green areas without cosy seats since this place seems uncomfortable; likewise, they feel isolated without an active community.
The present work wants to underline the role of a good urban design to deal with age-related inequalities in the contemporary city.