Building on the latest innovations in digital humanities, network analysis, and elaborating a newly developed Virtual Research Environment for the study of international organizations, this project opens new perspectives on the history of social reform in the period 1815-1914, with a special emphasis on the Low Countries. At a European level, the project shows the ways in which local and national welfare policies and legal regimes emerged in this period and demonstrates that such innovations were deeply embedded in transnational networks. Within this broader context, it focuses in particular on the involvement of reformers from the Low Countries, and highlights their activities at home and abroad. The overall aim of the project is to demonstrate the interconnectedness of local activism, national reform agendas and the transnational circulation of ideas and practices related to welfare and legal reform, and to make an empirical contribution to the understanding of the transnational field of social and legal reform as both a social and discursive field. We aim to demonstrate this, firstly, by looking at the range and relative strength of domestic, national and transnational ties of a carefully selected focus group and secondly, by examining the ‘mental maps’ of the reformers in question, as these can be gleaned from reform discourses in the development of welfare provisions and social change from the 19th century to the First World War.
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