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Originally produced in: Österreich
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3. Where they had to go to (Part 1)

Extract from „Uiber die Tiroler“ by Joseph Rohrer, 1796

“In some areas in the district of Imst, as soon as the boy is able to walk, he is made to leave his motherland in search of food and money. From their seventh year to their fifteenth, the number of boys from the parishes of Delfs, Nasereit, Imst, Lermes, Reuti, Vils and Tannheim (Telfs, Nassereith, Imst, Lermoos, Reutte, Vils, Tannheim) who are forced to make the trip to Swabia to herd horses, cows, sheep, goats, pigs and geese can easily reach 700. The majority of these children gathered at market time in the imperial city of Kempten, where they would be at the farmers’ disposal in the most intolerable conditions.”

Source: Harb, Köll, Melichar, Plattner: Quellen, Texte, Bilder zur Tiroler Landesgeschichte. Vienna 1996.


Lexicon for easier understanding:

  • A court was not only a place of law, it was also an administrative unit.
  • The place names are written in an old dialect – they were transferred directly into the source text in their modern forms.
  • „uiber“ is a dialect expression for „über“ (about).


  1. In which year was this report about Tyroleans written?
  2. Which types of work were the Swabian children used for?
  3. Imagine that you are a Tyrolean child at the Ravensburg child labour market. Which thoughts are going through your head while you are waiting?

Display teacher's view to find the answers.

Description and Analysis

How the term “Swabian children” came about:

“Just like every spring, on the 28th March this year the Tyrolean herding children will be up for sale in the Herding Children Association in Friedrichshafen.” This is how the announcement read in the Friedrichshafen newspaper “Der Landarbeiter” (quoted in Otto Uhlig, Die Schwabenkinder in Tirol und Vorarlberg, 1983, P.15) in 1913. The “herding child”, who would be sent to Swabia to work, was not a child of Swabia, but a child in Swabia – an Unswabian if you will!

This form of (seasonal) child labour was first mentioned in 1625 – by the 19th century more than 3000 children were forced to work away from home each year.

Answers to the Questions

  1. This report dates back to the year 1796.
  2. The Swabian children had to predominantly herd and look after the animals.
  3. Which master will take me? Will I get a good place? How will the food be? What will the farm I’ll be working on look like? I hope I don’t get homesick...