J. HANNES Assistent aan het Seminarie voor Hedendaagse Geschiedenis, R.u.G. en С LIS Aspirante N.F.W.O


ID: 196900000902

Social Hierarchy In Housing. Antwerp About 1834: How rich are rich people, how poor are poor people ? This is a much vexing question, especially when asked for the last century. The problem is to construct a kind of pyramid, where everyone has a definite place according to his wealth or lack of it. But how to build such a pyramid ? The authors started from the assumption, that there exists a correlation between the value of the habitation of the invidual and his financial situation. The value of the habitation is indeed well known, at least at a definite moment of the past century, owing to the compilation of the land registry. This goes, in Antwerp, for the year 1834. We do know, for that year, the value of any dwelling in Antwerp. The next step is to find out about the wealth of the people living in the most expensive houses and, on the other hand, of the people living in the least expensive. As regards the richest people, we can derive a fairly accurate idea of their place in the hierarchy of wealth by using the returns of the licence fee, a tax related to the importance of their business. It appears that there is a striking degree of conformity between both series. The same goes for the poor people living in shabby dwellings. Here one can know more or less how poor they are because they are the people on relief. On first sight, one would feel that this is a case of making sure in a painstaking way of what was known beforehand. But this would be a false assumption : for most of the 19th century, and for most towns, the documents (e.g. licence fee) helping us to gain insight into the real wealth of people are lost. But the land registry records are fairly well preserved. As it has been by now established that the correlation between the value of the inhabited house and the wealth situation is extremely high, the method developped by the authors makes it possible to reconstruct the real hierarchy of wealth or poverty for any given population. — Slum-Sanitation : A Central Problem In The Way Of Life Of The Working People. (Antwerp, 19Th Century): One of the most inescapable consequences of the growth of the industrial town (and even of the not so industrial town) in the past century is, that housing conditions of the factory workers and poor people rapidly took a turn for the worse. The accumulation of demographic, economic and social pressures made the actual housing conditions the very imbodiment of the squalid way of life of the 19th century factory worker, and more attention should be paid to the problem of the slums in the 19th century than has been in the past. In Antwerp — and in most Belgian towns — the basic problem in matters of working class housing was not so much the lack of space as the population increased, than slum construction as a highly profitable investment, in the shape of a huge number of small dwellings built around an inner court or a small street. There was no individual sanitation nor individual water supply. People had to help themselves from a small number of installations for common use. The reason, of course, was to keep the cost of the building of the slum as low as possible. The result was that life in a slum was a constant fight for water and sanitation. The three heavy cholera epidemics of the 19th century had terrific effects in these slums, and this made a slight impact on the minds of the upper classes. The first attempts at sanitation in the towns are the result of that shock. Surveys and projects were contemplated. But there were the owners of the slums to consider too, and it soon became clear that they wanted to keep things as they were. The fight lasted for nine years, and yielded, as far as slum-sanitation is concerned, negligible results : in no more than half of the slums was some work on sanitation done, and even there, no more than shortlived improvements were achieved. This goes to say that research on the fight for slum-sanitation yields its real dividend in a good knowledge of the basis indifference amongst the wealthy towards the very right to existence of the poor.