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“Passanten” and transient migration in preindustrial Europe and beyond


“Passanten” and transient migration in preindustrial Europe and beyond

University of Warwick, 26 November 2021
A group of travellers in and surrounding a vehicle is approaching a walled city’, Etching by Alfred Hubert (1869), Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.

The notion of being on the road, or even the concept of mobility, has proved hard to grasp for
historians, partially because of the issue of the large dark number of moves that went
unregistered. Although individuals travelling often left few traces, from the viewpoint of cities
or parishes there was an ever-present but always changing stream of people passing through.
These transient migrants would for example stay overnight in a lodging house, or make a stop
in the city to change from barges to overland travel. Cities in the early modern Low Countries
defined these people as ‘passanten’, a concept which also existed in French as ‘passants’ and
could be translated as ‘passers-by’.

In this workshop, we will explore the concept of passanten and its different iterations in history,
discussing the meaning of and changes in transient migration in early modern European cities
and parishes and beyond. Despite the focus on early modern Europe, contributions on other
time periods and regions are also welcome to contribute to a comparative perspective. We invite
proposals for individual project presentations; contributions focusing on sources and methods,
concepts and conceptualisations, current research problems or fresh perspectives; as well as
expressions of interest to attend as a discussant. Participants are invited to reflect on recently
developed theories on spaces of arrival and transit, infrastructures of mobility, the agency of
nature and technology as well as migration networks as units of analysis, to analyse the changes
through time and the places transient migrants occupy within public space in urban and rural

Workshop committee: Beat Kümin (University of Warwick), Rosa Salzberg (Università degli
Studi di Trento) and Felicita Tramontana (Università degli Studi Roma Tre).

For more information please contact Marjolein Schepers via

Time Schedule

11:00 (GMT): Introduction and welcome

11:30-12:30 (GMT): Session One (chair: Guido van Meersbergen)

• Colin Pooley, Passing encounters: diary evidence of mobile lives
• Richard Ansell, British servants as travellers and migrants in eighteenth-century
continental Europe

12:30-13:30 (GMT): Lunch break

13:30-15:00 (GMT): Session Two (chair: Torsten Feys)

• Charmian Mansell, People on the move: Making journeys in early modern England
• Marjolein Schepers, Closed gates and dark streets: Urban spaces of transit at night in
eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Leyden
• Markian Prokopovych, Familiarity with transiency: Practices of overseas migration
through Austria-Hungary at the turn of the twentieth century

15:00-15:30 (GMT): Coffee break

15:30-15:45 (GMT): Reading performance

• Joshua Leon, The smugglers way

15:45-17:00 (GMT): Roundtable discussion (chair: Beat Kümin)

• Opening statements by Girija Joshi, Luca Scholz and David Hitchcock

This workshop forms part of a IAS Fernandes Fellowship project & the support of Warwick’s Institute
of Advanced Study and the Research Foundation Flanders is gratefully acknowledged.