Hadewijch Masure and Eline Van Onacker: Poverty in the past: how communities dealt with poor relief before the welfare state
The poor relief landscape of the late medieval and early modern Low Countries was unique in its diversity and also in its dominance of community-based relief initiatives.
Rural communities, parishes, guilds, confraternities, etc. all had their own relief institutions, steered by laymen. In our masterclass we will focus on the specificities of poor relief organisations, with special attention to two areas of tension that are still relevant today, especially as the Belgian welfare state is increasingly put under pressure.
First of all we will focus on the mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion that went hand in hand with relief. Most organisations limited their help to a clearly delineated group, often excluding migrants and newcomers. We will sketch the genesis of these mechanisms and their evolution throughout time.
Secondly, we will find out whether poor relief organisations practiced what they preached, by focussing on the discrepancies between the discourse on poverty and poor relief and the way it functioned in its daily practice, emphasising the importance of social context in defining the way relief functioned.