This contribution examines the role of trust in disabled veteran welfare in Bohemia during the First World War. It places this concern for disabled veterans’ trust in a wider political context as trust emerged as a specific concern in Cisleithanian political discourses on administrative reform around 1900. In the context of welfare for disabled veterans in Cisleithania, trust gained novel importance. Medical and occupational experts deemed it imperative to gain disabled veterans’ trust to maintain their role as experts and developed specific strategies of emotionally engaging with disabled soldiers to gain their trust. Karl Eger, a military official, emerged as an influential actor in Bohemian welfare for disabled veterans. He propagated a welfare administration based on local welfare boards, which would supposedly possess disabled veterans’ trust. His idea of trust was, however, based on concepts of national communities and he implemented it to re-organize disabled veteran welfare based on nationality.
Files may seem an obvious topic for historians of public administration, but that is by no means self-evident. Despite the interest in files from sociologists and archival scientists in the early 20th century, historians have engaged more with the contents of files than with their genres, materialities and functions. After tracing the theoretical and methodological engagements with files from Max Weber and Heinrich Otto Meisner to Cornelia Vismann and Bruno Latour, we argue firstly that files are defined by their relation to other records they compile. At the same time, they transmute these documents into cases and bureaucratic objects. Secondly, just as files bring documents together, they connect the activities of individuals and organizations. However, we argue that the degree to which files are instruments of formal administrative control and organizational coherence has been exaggerated, obscuring the agency of users and the potential for files to serve other ends.