Orphans and Orphanhood between the 18th and 20th centuries: Expanding and Re-interrogating the History of Welfare

Abandoned Jewish children from the children’s asylum in Cluj/Kolozsvár/Klausenburg in Transylvania. Image source: Az Országos Izraelita Patronage-Egyesület évi jelentése az 1911. évről. [Report of the National Israelite Patronage Association for 1911] (Budapest: Auer Nyomda, [1912])

Over the past two decades, an increasingly integrative and diversified approach to the study of orphans and orphanhood has begun to make itself felt in historical writing. Alongside quantitative explorations of topics such as the life course effects of parental loss in childhood (Rosenbaum- Feldbrügge 2020, Őri 2021) or the relationship between orphanhood, remarriage, and family configurations (Velková and Tureček 2021, Koloh 2021), other studies have focused on the emergence of the institutional underpinnings of orphan care outside of orphanages (Schnitzeler 2021) or on children and orphans’ fates at political turning points over the course of the twentieth century (Kind-Kovács and Venken 2021). Refreshingly, the historiographical avenue of welfare history in East-Central Europe and particularly in Hungary, resting on foundational works such as those published by Susan Zimmermann several decades ago, has been both considerably expanded as well as re-interrogated. The integral relationship between orphan welfare and humanitarianism following watershed moments such as the First World War has been masterfully examined by Friederike Kind-Kovács (2022), while the meandering history of orphan care, fostering, nation and state-building in the area has likewise garnered increased attention (Gál 2021; Karakatsani and Nicolopoulou 2021). The fraught experiences of (orphaned) children in wartime and the post-war eras have begun to figure extremely prominently in historical writing from South-East and East-Central Europe (Theodourou and Karakatsani 2019, Maksudyan 2019, Roman and Mihalache 2021), paralleling similar enquiries with broader geographical and methodological scopes (Venken and Röger 2015). Where do these partially novel, partially untreaded lines of enquiry currently leave us? As a corollary, what tasks is historical writing, particularly that which focuses on areas such as the former Habsburg monarchy, bound to assume in the coming years in order to grapple with the complex history of orphans and orphanhood in pre-modern and modern times?

The present workshop aims to engage precisely with these related questions. On the one hand, it aims to draw a line and tally the most recent and telling findings on the topic – with a particular focus on East-Central and South-East Europe – while on the other hand, it seeks to identify potential unexplored gaps and formulate further relevant lines of enquiry. It likewise advocates for a holistic approach to orphans and orphanhood in modern times, drawing on quantitative work in the vein of historical demography and social science history, as well as on accounts centered on institutional, political, and cultural developments that influenced orphans’ life courses and experiences.

Within the framework of the project ‘Raising the Nation. Institutional and Grassroots Initiatives for Orphan Welfare in Transylvania during Dualism’, the Centre for Population Studies at the Babes- Bolyai University of Transylvania invites contributions for a workshop to be held in Cluj-Napoca on July 25th-26th 2022. Papers centered on orphan experiences and life courses between the 18th and 20th centuries from all historical disciplinary perspectives will be considered, with a particular focus on geographical areas and time frames that have thus far gone neglected. Examinations of institutional developments in the aftermath of political shifts, case-studies aiming to reconstitute the life courses of particular groups of orphans or explorations of the economic and political underpinnings of orphan welfare and estate management will be especially welcomed by the organizers.

The workshop is currently envisaged as a hybrid event, in order to allow for the broadest possible attendance. However, we encourage potential attendees to plan for an in-person meeting in order to facilitate hopefully fruitful and engaging discussions. For further logistic details, please contact the organizers: Oana Sorescu-Iudean (oana.sorescu@gmail.com), Luminita Dumanescu (luminita_dumanescu@yahoo.com), or Ovidiu Iudean (ovidiu.iudean@gmail.com).

Abstracts (350 Words) and short biographical statements (200 Words) should be emailed to oana.sorescu@gmail.com by June 20th, 2022. Notifications regarding acceptance will be delivered no later than June 25th.

Gál, Edina (2021). Raised by Strangers: A Childhood in State Care in Dualist Transylvania”, Romanian Journal of Population Studies Vol. XV, Issue 1, Special Issue: Orphanhood in East-Central and South- Eastern Europe (18th-20th Century), 9-26.

Karakatsani, Despina and Nikolopoulou, Pavlina (2021). Pedagogical Discourse, Childhood and Emotions in Childtowns during the Post-civil War Period in Greece”, Romanian Journal of Population Studies Vol. XV, Issue 1, Special Issue: Orphanhood in East-Central and South-Eastern Europe (18th- 20th Century), 27-44.

Kind-Kovács, Friederike (2022). Budapest’s Children: Humanitarian Relief in the Aftermath of the Great War, Indiana University Press, https://iupress.org/9780253062161/budapests-children/

Kind-Kovács, Friederike and Venken, Machteld (2021). „1918, 1945, 1989: Childhood in Times of Political Transformation: Part I”, Journal of Modern European History (Special Issue) 19 (2021), 1-11 and “1918, 1945, 1989: Childhood in Times of Political Transformation: Part II”, Journal of Modern European History (Special Issue) 19, 1-11.

Koloh, Gábor (2021). “Financial Situation of Orphans and Half-orphans in Southern Transdanubia, Hungary in the 19th Century”, Romanian Journal of Population Studies Vol. XV, Issue 1, Special Issue: Orphanhood in East-Central and South-Eastern Europe (18th-20th Century), 45-66.

Maksudyan, Nazan (2019). Ottoman Children and Youth during World War I, Syracuse University Press.

Őri, Péter (2021). “Parental loss in 18–19th century Hungary: the impact of the parents’ widowhood and remarriage on their children’s survival, Zsámbék, 1720–1850”, The History of the Family, DOI: 10.1080/1081602X.2021.2000472.

Roman, Nicoleta and Mihalache, Cătălina (2021). Copilării trecute prin război. Povești de viață, politici sociale  și  reprezentări  culturale  în  România  anilor  1913-1923,  Iași,  Editura  Universității  ,,Alexandru Ioan Cuza”.

Rosenbaum-Feldbrügge, Matthias T. (2020). Dealing with demographic stress in childhood. Parental Death and the Transition to Adulthood in the Netherlands, 1850-1952. PhD Manuscript, Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, https://hdl.handle.net/2066/215763

Schnitzeler, J.W. (2021). “In Loco Parentis: Holland’s orphan chambers in a European context”, The History of the Family, DOI: 10.1080/1081602X.2021.1981975

Theodorou, Vassiliki and Karakatsani, Despina (2019). Strengthening Young Bodies, Building the Nation. A Social History of Children’s Health and Welfare in Greece (1890–1940), CEU University Press.

Velková, Alice and Tureček, Petr (2021). “Influence of parental death on child mortality and the phenomenon of the stepfamily in western Bohemia in 1708–1834”, The History of the Family, DOI: 10.1080/1081602X.2021.1986738

Venken, Machteld and Röger, Maren (2015). „Growing up in the shadow of the Second World War: European perspectives”, European Review of History, Vol. 22, No. 2, 199–220.