The Borders of the Welfare State: Migration, Social Rights and Expulsion (1850-1933)
In current academic and political debates, the tensions between European conceptions of the welfare state and transnational migration are a heatedly discussed issue. How can social promises be kept in times of globalization? Is welfare only feasible in “closed” nation states with tight border controls? Are social rights a privilege of national citizens, or are they a human right due also to foreign immigrants? And under what circumstances are deportations justifiable? Such questions have become a highly explosive and intensely scrutinized subject. Astonishingly little is known, however, about their historical dimensions. There exists by now a rich literature on the origins of modern welfare policies; migration history is flourishing too; and in recent years, the history of citizenship has attracted increasing attention. Yet, these have largely remained three separate strands of research: very few works have studied in detail how the European welfare states dealt with the challenges of migration in their formative phase – challenges that are not only troubling our present.
This project aims at filling the research gap. Taking as its starting point the frequently postulated, but still poorly documented and probably too simplistic hypothesis that the status of aliens deteriorated inversely to the expansion of citizens’ rights with the rise of the modern nation and welfare state, it will explore the relationship between migrants and the institutions of social assistance in their country of residence from the mid-nineteenth century to the interwar period. In these decades, the “social question” ranked high on the political agendas of the emerging industrial societies, and at the same time long-distance labour migration gained momentum. The coincidence of intense social reform activity and high levels of geographic mobility posed the question of what national borders and national citizenship meant with a new kind of urgency. Who was to be entitled to the social benefits already established and envisioned for the future? Who was to be excluded from them? What was to happen with formally not entitled persons if they lost their work, their ability to work or their breadwinner and became destitute? The project will reconstruct the disputes about these issues on two intertwined levels: on the one hand at the level of everyday practices in dealing with (potentially) needy foreigners, looking at exemplary cities and regions; and on the other hand at the level of international treaties and reform initiatives that attempted to coordinate practices between countries. The aim is to write a transnational history of how European societies framed and handled the problem of migrants’ social claims in the early decades of welfare-state building around 1900, which will enlarge our knowledge about the antecedents of current debates.
This three-year project (2018-2021) is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) – project number 411657768.
Citizenship, Migration and Social Rights – Historical Experiences from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century Workshop 4-5 March 2021, deadline for proposals: 15 September 2020
Dr. Beate Althammer
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany
The Borders of the Welfare State: Migration, Social Rights and Expulsion
Phone: +49(0)30 2093 702 32
Beate Althammer is a historian with main research interests in the comparative and transnational history of modern Europe. She studied at the University of Zurich and obtained her doctorate with a scholarship of the research training group “Western Europe in Comparative Historical Perspective” at the University of Trier. She then joined the Collaborative Research Centre 600 “Strangers and Poor People: Changing Patterns of Inclusion and Exclusion from Classical Antiquity to the Present Day”, which was funded by the DFG at the University of Trier from 2002 to 2012. In 2011 and 2013, she held research fellowships at the German Historical Institute London, in 2014 at the German Historical Institute Paris. Since 2015, she is a visiting lecturer at the Leuphana University Lüneburg, and in 2016 she earned her habilitation at the University of Trier with a book on the history of vagabondage in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Germany. In the academic year 2017/18 she was a fellow at re:work, where since November 2018 also her DFG-Project on the “Borders of the Welfare State” is based.
‘Roaming Men, Sedentary Women? The Gendering of Vagrancy Offences in Nineteenth Century Europe’. In Journal of Social History 51 (2018) 4: 736–759.
Vagabunden. Eine Geschichte von Armut, Bettel und Mobilität im Zeitalter der Industrialisierung (1815–1933). Essen: Klartext, 2017.
‘Vagabonds in the German Empire. Mobility, Unemployment, and the Transformation of Social Policies (1870–1914)’. In Poverty and Welfare in Modern German History, edited by Lutz Raphael, 78–104. New York, NY: Berghahn, 2017.
‘Controlling Vagrancy. Germany, England and France, 1880–1914’. In Rescuing the Vulnerable. Poverty, Welfare and Social Ties in Modern Europe, edited by Beate Althammer, Lutz Raphael, and Tamara Stazic-Wendt, 187–211. New York, NY: Berghahn, 2016.
‘Grenzregime. Mobilität, Freizügigkeit und die Ausweisung von Fremden im 19. Jahrhundert’. Westfälische Forschungen 65 (2015): 17–35.
‘Verfassungsstaat und bürgerliches Recht. Die Stellung von Fremden im Europa des langen 19. Jahrhunderts (1789–1914)’. In Fremd und rechtlos? Zugehörigkeitsrechte Fremder von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart. Ein Handbuch, edited by Altay Coşkun and Lutz Raphael, 301–30. Köln: Böhlau, 2014.
Last updated: December 17, 2018