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Holiday colonies on the Belgian coast (1886-1980)

Time period: 1886-1980

Number of interviews: 80

Sound files: wav

Transcriptions: yes, Dutch

10-minute summaries: yes

Accessibility: mandatory registration and on request


Archival history: The interviews were conducted by students of New History (UGent), for the course Qualitative Methods – part-time oral history taught by Bruno De Wever for the project Vakantiekolonies aan de Belgische kust (1886-1980) of Amsab-ISG.


Although holiday colonies were a widespread phenomenon until the 1980s, there has been little research into them. The first holiday colonies arose from the School struggle. Besides this political goal, their main task was to improve the health of working-class children. After the First World War, all Belgian pillar organisations started to set up holiday colonies.


The holiday colonies differed not only in political background. Unlike the Catholic ones, for example, the socialist holiday colonies mixed girls and boys. At the end of the 1960s, the holiday colonies experienced their heyday. The emphasis was now not so much on health as on meaningful leisure activities. Together with the professionalisation of the colony staff, the clientele of the holiday homes shifted from weakened working-class children to middle-class children.


Research into this phenomenon is therefore very complex. Colonies were set up by the government, health insurance companies, employers, organisations and private individuals, and are therefore diverse in many aspects. Not every organiser has left behind sources. Classic sources are often lacking and if they are present, they do not immediately give us a picture of the stay in the colony.


The registration of oral testimonies is appropriate here, on the one hand to supplement the lack of sources and on the other hand to find out how colony residents experienced these holidays. Specifically for this research, there is another reason to use oral history as a method. In contrast to other source material about the colonies, iconographic material has been abundantly preserved. Mostly in the form of postcards. These show us how the colonists wanted to present their colony to the outside world. The films we have at our disposal are also propaganda for the colonies and their organisers. These images must therefore be supplemented with other sources and testimonies. Because of the diversity of the holiday colonies and the different aspects of the holiday, there are three main lines in our research: – Who went to the holiday colony? – How was the holiday colony experienced? – How did outsiders view the holiday colonies?





“We Zijn Goed Aangekomen! Vakantiekolonies Aan de Belgische Kust [1887-1980].” Bijdragen van Het Museum van de Vlaamse Sociale Strijd van de Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen, vol. 25, ASP Editions ; Amsab-ISG, 2010. Auteur:


Author: Martine Vermandere
Publisher: Aspeditions
ISBN: 9789054876946

In this book, author Martine Vermandere outlines the rich history of the phenomenon of holiday colonies, from the reception of working-class children by charities at the end of the 19th century to the professionalisation of the colonies by health insurance funds after the Second World War. By means of unique photo material and testimonies of beautiful and less beautiful memories, this book takes you through the history of the holiday colonies in all its aspects.