Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Almshouses in Europe

7 September 2011 to 9 September 2011

The conference Almshouses in Europe from the late Middle Ages to the Present - Comparisons and Peculiarities will take place in Haarlem (Doopsgezinde Kerk), the Netherlands, on 7-9 September 2011.

Almshouses originated in the Middle Ages and many of them still exist. They offered elderly people at risk of impoverishment cheap or free accommodation, often alongside clothing, food, fuel and money - the actual alms. Unlike other welfare institutions in early modern Europe (hospitals, orphanages etc.) almshouse apartments allowed their occupants to run an autonomous household under respectable living conditions and considerable privacy.

Much of their history is still in the dark:
How can their geographical distribution and the waves of foundations be explained? Almshouses appear to have been founded predominantly by private benefactors. Who were they and what made them devote a considerable capital to this type of charity? Who lived in an almshouse? What do we know about the occupants' social status, family situation, occupation and religion? What was living in an almshouse like? How many people could be accommodated in relation to those relying on outdoor poor relief or on other institutions like hospitals? What other options did elderly people have when their household income dropped because of infirmity and physical decline?

The conference is a result of the Giving in the Golden Age (GiGA ) project, a research program on charity in the Golden Age. The IISH is co-organizer.
Organizers: Henk Looijesteijn (International institute of Social History) in cooperation with GIGA project leader Marco H.D. van Leeuwen (Utrecht University) and Frank Hatje (Hamburg University).
Persons interested may download the provisional program.
Conference fee: 20 euro for three days; 15 euro for one day.
Language spoken at the conference: English.
Information: Henk Looijesteijn,
Registration: e-mail to the secretary of the Landelijk Hofjesberaad,

The conference was made possible by grants from the GIGA-project, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Landelijk Hofjesberaad Foundation, Frans Loenenhofje, Hofjes Codde and Van Beresteyn, Rozenhofje, Hofje De Armen de Poth and the Koninklijke Haagse Woning vereniging van 1854.