Paupers in the Midst of Others. Orphans and Abandoned Children in Europe (18th – 20th centuries)
3rd – 4th October 2013
“Nicolae Iorga” Institute of History, Romanian Academy, Bucharest, Romania
In a world dominated by poverty, orphans and abandoned children hold a place apart given the alternatives open to them and the attitudes towards them. Over the centuries, the State, the Church, and individuals have created and financed special institutions, also providing their personal support on special occasions (religious holidays and feasts, public events etc.), in a more or less regular manner. But what were the norms these children and those around them had to respect in order to achieve a certain “official” ideal? Can we trace any change over the course of time when it comes to the welfare system intended for these disadvantaged children or acts of philanthropy? What kind of social policy did the State follow and did it differ from one country or region to the next? These are just a few of the questions that might arise from a discussion about the institutional issue. On another hand, we should also keep in mind that besides the rôle the authorities (whether ecclesiastical or civil) played, a complex social network was created around the child, with its own importance in shaping his or her future life. The world of the orphan or abandoned child is also a world where illegitimacy and family (or to be more precise the absence of family) created the premises for attitudes constructed, whether publicly or not, around words like shame, sin, and delinquency.
This two-day workshop will focus on orphans and abandoned children as two distinct social categories, and we encourage scholars from not only Western but also Central and South-Eastern Europe to participate. The main topics of discussion will be:
1) Institutions and social policies relating to orphans and abandoned children. This topic will include State and Church initiatives, as well as individual initiatives. We intend to look at the way in which these differed from one to another and at the prevalent trends in child development. Medical assistance, issues of infant mortality within these social categories, and the training given to these children will be among the subjects to be tackled.
2) Children and family. This topic will cover three different issues relating to both orphans and abandoned children: firstly, the importance of their relationship with their single parent or whatever distant relatives they might have; and secondly, adoption as the path to a new and legitimate family. In addition, where this did not occur, another issue arises: the baptism of all those left to the mercy of Christians or institutions without any proof of identification.
3) Seeking respectability or choosing delinquency.This discussion topic will look at the presence and importance of work in the lives of such children as they found a place for themselves in society. From a different viewpoint, delinquency was also a course in life that some people believed was foreordained for these children. And thus their activity alongside other lawbreakers needs to be highlighted.
We also welcome any other topic related to the subject of our workshop, so please feel free to propose. Paper proposals should include an abstract of no more than 500 words, a Curriculum Vitae and the contact details of the presenter (affiliation, e-mail adress). Please send them to Nicoleta Roman, “Nicolae Iorga” Institute of History, Romanian Academy, Bucharest, Romania no later than 25th of May. The working language of this workshop will be English, but papers in French will also be welcome as long as they will have an equivalent in English (PowerPoint presentation / a printed form). The organizer will provide accommodation for three nights, while travel expenses need to be covered by the participants.
“Nicolae Iorga” Institute of History – Romanian Academy, Bucharest, Romania
Vincent GOURDON, Centre Roland Mousnier – Paris Sorbonne University
Isabelle ROBIN-ROMERO, Centre Roland Mousnier – Paris Sorbonne University
Silvia SOVIČ, Institute of Historical Research – University of London
Constanţa VINTILĂ-GHIŢULESCU, ”Nicolae Iorga” Institute of History – Romanian Academy