Schwabenkinder und andere Formen der alpinen Arbeitsmigration – eine Spurensuche zwischen gestern und heute
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Since the 16th century at the latest, seasonal labour migration has been documented in the Central Alps. In the regions of Tyrol and Vorarlberg, which today belong to Austria, and Graubünden, which is part of Switzerland, different kinds of migration to find work represented an essential part of people‘s income. That is why labour migration has to be regarded as a crucial part of everyday culture there. In these regions many forms of migration continued to be vital economic factors up to the 20th century. Even children and adolescents were not excluded from such kinds of labour
migration. The best-known of them are the so-called “Schwabenkinder” (Swabian children) named after the region Schwaben (Swabia) in Southwest Germany where they had to work seasonally from March to November. The oldest sources of this “Schwabengängerei” (moving to Swabea) have been handed down from the early 17th century. In 1616 the administrator of the bailiwick of Bludenz Davis Pappus reported “some hundred” children who moved each year to the “markets of children” at the Swabian town of Ravensburg as a practice that had already become established at that time. These children markets were held until the time of the First World War. Reports of contemporary witnesses who were hired to farms in Upper Swabia during the 1930s do not differ significantly from the conditions the Schwabenkinder had to endure during the 19th century. The article deals with the historical development and socio-economic causes as well as the current common commemoration as the “Schwabengängerei” received more and more media attention in recent decades.
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