The Workhouse–Orphanage

Student thesis: Master Thesis and HD Thesis

  • Lars Nørholtz
4. term, History, Master (Master Programme)
”The Workhouse–Orphanage – A study of the political aspects of the Copenhagen Workhouse-Orphanage under the rule of Christian IV and the role of the infrastructure in early Danish mercantilism” is the title of my thesis, handed in and defended at Aalborg University in the spring of 2005. Christian IV´s Workhouse-Orphanage was established in the early 17th century as an institution of forced labour, in order to utilize the labour resources represented by the ever growing travelling proletariat. Historical research traditionally analyzes Christian IV’s Workhouse-Orphanage as a mercantile enterprise. In my view analyzing the institution in a mercantile context only does not do history justice, which is why in this thesis I have tried to analyze other political aspects of the Workhouse-Orphanage than the mercantile one, such as socio-political aspects, population-political aspects as well as infrastructural aspects. Moreover I have questioned whether the universal theory of American economist Jacob Viner about the preconditions for the implementation of a mercantile industrial policy is sufficient, since it does not take into account the role of the infrastructure as a basic precondition for mercantilism. Furthermore, based on an article by Henrik Pers, Danish MA of history, I have analyzed Christian IV’s mercantile industrial policy in order to clarify whether early Danish mercantilism fits into Jacob Viner’s theory. The thesis ends in the conclusion that it is possible to trace other political aspects of a socio-political, population-political and infrastructural nature in the Copenhagen Workhouse-Orphanage, which would make the institution more than just a mercantile enterprise. The socio-political aspects were e.g. reflected in the hiring of a doctor and in detailed diet regimes, whereas the payment of the inmates’ savings upon their release, reflected the thought of re-socialization. The population-political aspects were reflected in Christian IV’s wish for the children inmates, using their education, to form the backbone of a future Danish class of artisans, whereas the infrastructural aspect was best reflected in the establishment of a vault serving as a drain. Analyzing a long series of empirical examples of Christian IV’s policies has moreover made it possible to show that Jacob Viner’s universal theory does not fully cover the mercantile industrial policy and that the theory would be completed by adding an independent sixth principle revolving around infrastructure.
Publication date2005
Number of pages141
Publishing institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 6146640