The IMMIBEL project is a collaboration between the State Archives of Belgium, the VUB, ULB and Antwerp University. The project is at the crossroads of migration history, maritime history, the history of science and technology and of social policy.
Outcast or embraced? Clusters of migrants in Belgium, 1840-1914
The project uses cross- and interdisciplinary analysis to investigate the scale, chronology and nature of the 19th century migration to Belgium and to investigate the political, economic, social and cultural dimensions of interactions of foreigners with different layers of Belgian society. It focuses on an exceptional period in European and Belgian history (1840-1890), that was characterized by rising mobility and increasing economic integration, but also witnessed the emergence of the ‘modern’ nation state, in which the distinction between ‘foreigner’ and ‘national’ became more important.
For this project a series of exceptionally rich, but extremely underexploited archival series of the federal historical heritage of the State Archives will be valorised, among which more than 150.000 individual foreigners’ files in the “first series” of the Sûreté Publique (1840-1890). Making optimal use of the possibilities of ‘digital history’ and record linkage, the great strength of the proposed methodology lies in its possibility to combine aggregate quantitative analysis with in-depth qualitative analysis, to combine cross-sectional with longitudinal analysis, and to combine diachronic with spatial comparisons.
The project focuses on three subgroups:
expelled and unwanted foreigners (interactions with a repressive state policy (VUB)
Seamen, working in an internationally oriented labour market (UA)
Actors of Knowledge (scientists, technicians, scholars) who spread new ideas and technologies in the wake of Belgium’s progression towards the second industrial revolution.
By focussing on the socio-cultural confrontations and interactions of these groups with different layers and dimensions of Belgian society, this project aims to identify and evaluate the social, cultural, political and economic impact of encounters and confrontations that emanated from 19-th century international mobility.