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The Swabian Children and Child Welfare in the Eastern Alps, 1820-1921

January 21, 2022 @ 3:30 pm - 5:30 pm

This virtual event is co-sponsored by North Carolina German Studies.

Throughout the nineteenth century, thousands of children from the Austrian Alps undertook yearly journeys to Southwest Germany, where they negotiated labor contracts at “child markets” (Kindermärkte) for work as domestics and shepherds. From its first discovery in the 1820s up to its dissolution a century later, a loose coalition of regional bureaucrats and administrators took steps transforming these so-called “Swabian Children” into public wards of the provincial state. These interventions drastically changed what it meant to be a Schwabenkind. Under sustained state pressures, these children began to travel by different means, to conclude labor terms by written contracts, and to associate more with state servants than family members in their pursuit of work abroad. This talk reveals how, contrary to past scholarship, the “Swabian Children” were hardly impervious to state oversight. By 1900, it might rather be argued that they had been fashioned as a state-based category of public welfare.

JOHNATHON SPEED is a PhD Candidate in History at Vanderbilt University, where he is writing a dissertation on the peculiar Alpine child migrants known as the “Swabian Children.” His research was supported by the Institute for European History (IEG) at Mainz and the Free University of Berlin. His research interests focus on the intersection of the history of childhood and youth, migration studies, and legal history in Central Europe since the nineteenth century.


LISA LINDSAY | Professor and Chair, UNC Chapel Hill, Department of History


THOMAS PEGELOW-KAPLAN | Levine Distinguished Professor of Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace
Studies, Appalachian State University, Department of History


JAMES CHAPPEL | Gilhuly Family Associate Professor, Duke University, Department of History



January 21, 2022
3:30 pm - 5:30 pm