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Originally produced in: Österreich
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1. Who left the country and why this happened

The district governor of Imst reports in 1832

“Poverty is rife all over the Upper Inn Valley, and this only increases every year from spring to autumn. It will hardly be possible for some men to feed a large family. Because of this,they seek to send the children who cannot be of help to them on the farm – namely the children aged nine to fifteen- abroad for herding.”

Source: Harb, Rudolf (Hg), Tyrol, Texte und Bilder zur Landesgeschichte, Innsbruck, 1982.


Starting in the late 17th Century, the so-called Schwabenkinder (Swabian children) emigrated to the southern German regions around Lake Constance and the Allgäu, where they found work on the region’s rich farms. This seasonal migration was at its peak in the 19th century, when thousands of boys and girls emigrated from March to November into Swabia.


  1. Which children were forced to leave their families to work abroad over the summer?
  2. How old were they?
  3. Why did they have to work abroad?
  4. Did the authorities at the time know about these migration movements?
  5. Can you think of a reason why the authorities should have forbidden this form of seasonal work?
  6. Why were these children known as the “Swabian children”?

Display teacher's view to find the answers.

Description and Analysis

The temporary removal of children from their own homes is one of the saddest chapters in Tyrolean history. Many 19th century families in the Upper Inn Valley and the Vinschgau were unable to feed their children with the proceeds of their work on the farms.

Why the Tyrolean Oberland and Vinschgau (now in present-day Italy) were affected by massive food shortages:

In these areas of the Tyrol, there was the so-called Realteilung, an Inheritance Property Division.

The inherited agicultural property was divided equally amongst the children. As a result, over the generations the area of the property grew smaller and smaller until the property was so small that the owners were unable to feed themselves and their families. At the same time, however, this type of inheritance meant that many children were born. Each one of these was an “owner” and therefore able to obtain a marriage license to form their own family.

In addition, the areas of the Upper Inn valley and the Vinschgau were prone to having very poor land– with poor soils and little rainfall.

For a long time, it was also possible for the people living there to sell their home industry products, crops and mine yields. However, from the 19th century onwards, this became increasingly difficult as factory production became cheaper, mines became unprofitable or it simply became too expensive to transport products from areas of Europe with poor road networks.

A potential solution was therefore to “rent out” many children for labour.

Anwsers to the Questions

  1. Children from the rural areas of the Upper Inn Valley and the Vinschgau.
  2. As soon as they could “go it alone”. They were between 7 and 15 years old.
  3. They had to work in Swabia because their parents were no longer able to feed them.
  4. The authorities knew about this because they issued a form of travelling passport to each child.
  5. The authorities should have forbidden this seasonal work as the children were unable to receive any education for many months.
  6. They were called Swabian children because they were forced to work in Swabia.