Based on my master’s thesis on the urban foster care system of Zurich regarding their indentured child servants (1921-1960), this doctoral thesis aims to reconstruct and compare the child indentureship system in the Cantons of Zurich, Berne and Basel throughout the 20th century.

Lay summary

The project aims to establish which institutions were concerned with this specific field of welfare in the aforementioned regions as well as the pertinent legal grounds of their actions. Moreover, the poverty debates of the time will be analyzed in order to illustrate how poverty was explained and which convictions were commonly held to be „professional knowledge" at the time. To what extent do various poverty conceptions also serve to illuminate the respective welfare and (considering the child indentureship system) foster care practices?


In addition, the project intends to show the media of argument transfer by providing proof of the existence of a professional network between the involved institutions, which operated by means of specialist journals, and an eager reciprocal exchange of information in practice. Especially the role of the administrative case files is to be clarified.


Finally, I would like to analyze the radii of impact that the investigated arguments reached - both within a particular Canton (i.e. between urban and rural areas of a state), as well as between different Cantons. In doing so, I plan to get to the bottom of the alleged pioneer function of the city of Zurich in modern Swiss child and youth welfare.


This dissertation is meant as a contribution to a well-founded debate on the Swiss child indentureship system in academic research as well as in society.