The vagabond career. Resistance and sociability of marginalised populations in Amiens in the mid-19th century

The history of “vagabonds” in the 19th century
By Florian Julien

Considering vagrancy as a “deviance”, as defined by Howard S. Becker, this paper focuses on the use of the crime of vagrancy to repress urban deviance in the 19th century. A study of judicial and police sources in a medium-sized town, the city of Amiens, allows us to track certain cases on an individual basis, during the 1830s and 1840s. This period saw the appearance of marginalised groups, homeless and yet almost sedentary, because they were strongly linked to a particular city. The modes of vagrants’ sociability, the milestones of these deviant careers, and the forms of resistance and adaptation to repression of what was, after all, a crime are illuminated here. Finally, by depicting their daily lives, this article paints a portrait of these 19th century outsiders, in contrast to the traditional representations of the rural wanderer or the Paris tramp.

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