Children of the Laboring Poor

Expectation and Experience among the Orphans of Early Modern Augsburg


A companion volume to Charity and Economy in the Orphanages of Early Modern Augsburg, this book takes up the agency and individuality of the laboring poor and their children. It examines the economic lives of poor, distressed, or truncated families on the basis of 5,734 biographical descriptions of children who passed through the City, Catholic, and Lutheran orphanages of Augsburg between 1572 and 1806. Studied in conjunction with administrative, criminal, and fiscal records of various sorts, these “Orphan Books” reveal the laboring poor as flexible and adaptive. Their fates were determined neither by the poverty they suffered nor the charity they received. Rather, they responded to changing economic and social conditions by using Augsburg’s orphanages to extend their resources, care for their children, and create opportunities. The findings will interest historians of poverty, charity, labor, and the Reformation.

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Thomas Max Safley, Ph.D. (1980) in History, University of Wisconsin at Madison, is Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. He has published extensively on the economic and social history of early modern Europe, including among others Let No Man Put Asunder (1984), Charity and Economy (1996) and Matheus Miller's Memoir (2000).
Any broader study of early modern orphan care, or poor relief in general, should take account of Safley's analysis. For more general readers, this local study offers an admirably thorough description of the structures of poverty and the many individuals who overcame them. Mitchell Lewis Hammond, Renaissance Quarterly
List of Illustrations Note on Money Abbreviations Preface Introduction 1. Death and Adaptation 2. Debt, “Presentism,” and Traditionalism 3. Resourcefulness, Calculation, and Rationalism 4. Negotiation and Admission 5. The Disciplining of Appetites 6. The Disciplining of Spirits 7. Disciplining the Laborer 8. Death and the Servant: Leaving the Orphanages 9. A Return to the Margin? 10. A Place in the Mainstream? Conclusion: The Worm in the Apple Bibliography Index
All those interested in the social, economic and cultural history of early modern Europe, the history of Reformation and Confessionalization, the history of poverty and charity, the history of the family and the household, as well as children, education and labor.