On wednesday 29th April, HOST-member Thomas Verbruggen successfully defended his PhD thesis. In his dissertation called 'Maids on the Move': The Migration of Foreign Domestic Servants to Antwerp and Brussels (1850-1910)', he sheds new light on migration processes of domestic servants and the infrastructure they used from the perspective of those two destination cities. The members of the jury were unanimously satisfied by the fresh insights of the thesis and the quality of the historical research conducted by Verbruggen.
The doctoral project was supervised by Hilde Greefs (Centre for Urban History, University of Antwerp) and Anne Winter (HOST, Vrije Universiteit Brussel).
Read here the abstract of his dissertation:
In the second half of the nineteenth century, female domestic servants were no longer moving exclusively within regional traditional migration circuits but started to explore new migration paths crossing longer distances. This transition towards increasing levels of long-distance servant migration is intrinsically linked to a general democratization of long-distance migration. Due to innovations in the transport and communication infrastructure, long-distance migration became an option to a growing share of the European population. The main aim of this project is to compare the formation and development of different types of international female migration circuits during this period and analyse the role of various human and non-human actors within these developments. Three levels of analysis return in each chapter: a comparison between different types of migration circuits, an analysis of changes over time, and a comparison between two types of cities. More specifically, the focus is on international servant migration to two Belgian cities: Antwerp, an international commercial hub, and Brussels, the capital and largest city of the country. Existing research has revealed a democratization and feminization of long-distance migration towards both cities which has been connected to an increasing number of foreign domestic servants. As mentioned above, Antwerp and Brussels share this evolution in their migration field with other European cities which makes this study not only relevant to scholars interested in the social history of Belgium, but also to those who want to gain insights into the effects of the nineteenth-century transformations on overall female migration patterns.
Image source: SAA, Beeldbank, Foto-Of#2942. Monochrome photo of two servants having a chat in the countryard of a bourgeois house in Antwerp, dated between 1890 and 1900.