|Shaping Orphan Lives in Wallachia: Customs, Laws and Institutions (1800–1860)|
|Social history has offered us through time many themes of interest, which managed to bring light in different dimensions of human life from childhood to domestic violence or sexuality. Still, such research paths have remained nearly unknown for Romania until almost two decades ago, when 1989 Revolution opened even historiography to the changes of world. Childhood history in 19th century Wallachia is a direction related to other various and complementary historical fields: family and childhood history, demography (through the rates of mortality, adoption etc.), education, labour and economic history, religious and ethnographical practices and so on. As such, the perspective on this part of social history is, by no means, reduced to a single discussion or interpretation. All of the connexions mentioned above will be corroborated to shape the historical data and to construct more than a glimpse over the Romanian society and this particular social category chosen as subject of our paper, the one of orphans. Important issues will be taken into account and placed within the historical and geographical context. Firstly, the public discourse on children, childhood and welfare system as it was in 19th century. Defining these concepts before handling them will be our first step. As part of South-Eastern Europe and having been for a long time under Ottoman rule, Wallachia (=a principality in southern nowadays Romania) has certainly developed specific features on social policies. Childhood and children were also differently perceived and treated by individuals, community, Church and State. Thus, discovering and exploring the orphans’ image within this perspective will be our next challenge. Secondly, another important issue will be to outline the life of these poor, helpless children as it was among the others, either in Bucharest or in other cities. What were the institutions that took care of them? How were they integrated in society? Where ended their old identity and started the new one?
The archives will be the main source in reconstructing a brief history of orphans in Wallachia. Foreign travellers’ accounts are another important source as long as they wrote about Wallachian society, family and children situation. The rules imposed by laws, decrees or any legal acts, can or cannot sustain what happened in ‘’reality’’. Differences between theory and acts of life have been rummaged out before. That is why all this sources will be analyzed with great care because, in the back of any historical account is an idea, an image about how that particular part of society should behave.
To conclude, orphans’ image in the Romanian past is an approach that leads us not only to Romanian childhood history, but also to the way this country integrated within the Europe’s frame at this level of knowledge. For this period and territory, the changes that took place with respect of childhood, orphans and welfare system succeeded in a more visible manner than probably anywhere else in South-Eastern Europe. That is why bringing them to light it seems like opening a door towards multiple worlds.|