Esitelmät ja keskustelutilaisuudet

Disputed trades. Categories, Terms, and Possibilities of Street Vending and Peddling

Docent Sigrid Wadauer (Univ. of Vienna) will give a public lecture.

Activities like street vending and peddling do not fit smoothly into common categories of the social and economic history of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. People, who tried to make a living by offering goods or services on streets or from door to door, were often regarded neither as decent traders nor decent workers. Shopkeepers perceived them as illegitimate competition. At the same time, itinerant traders were frequently accused of merely avoiding honest work and disguised begging. Stereotypes and prejudices against various national, ethnic, or religious minorities were added to these delegitimizing depictions. In scholarly writings (contemporary and more recent), such traders were described as Lumpenproletariat, as self-employed proletarians or as part of a middle class endangered in its social status. Hence, peddlers and street vendors do not seem to belong to established topics of historical research, such as trade history or the history of labour. Only more recently were such practices included into the global history of labour and the working class. Studies on the informal economy add different perspectives by perceiving street vendors as petty capitalists or micro-entrepreneurs, which after all seem to be regular elements of economy. Starting out from these questions and debates, Wadauer will present empirical research on itinerant trades in the Habsburg Monarchy / Austria from the late 19th to the early 20th century.