Premodern Healthcaping currently houses two research projects.
The first, “Healthscaping Urban Europe, 1200-1500,” brought together a group of historians and archaeologists to explore how urban residents in two of Europe’s most urbanized regions–Italy and the Low Countries–thought about and pursued population-level health. The 5-year project, funded by an ERC Consolidator grant, is based at the University of Amsterdam and builds on insights reached by scholars of premodern medicine, urbanism and material culture, which collectively challenged the identification of public health as a uniquely modern phenomenon. Running between 2017 and 2022, this project traces the development of community health, safety and wellbeing as a major aspect of the public good and as a key means of justifying and legitimating power in an urban context. It explored the transmission of and tensions between medical theory and urban policy in this regard, and examines the extent to which these were enforced from the political center outward, guarded and resisted by for instance major economic stakeholders, including the church, craft guilds and neighborhood agents. Using a combination of methodologies drawing on anthropology, geography, cultural history and science and technology studies, this group is defining a new key for observing how historical communities aspired to foster places where health could bloom.
The second project, “Pursuing Public Health in the Preindustrial World, 1100-1800,” commenced in 2022 thanks to funding provided by the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects grant, and runs until late 2026. Building directly on the achievements and insights of the Healthscaping project, it expanded its remit in two ways. First, by covering preventative practices not only in Europe, but also in India and the Eastern Mediterranean, regions where Hippocratic or Galenic medicine’s long-term presence affords points of comparison and knowledge transmission. And secondly, by focusing on non-urban and mobile groups such as courts, miners and pilgrims, which balance an almost exclusively urban focus in much of the existing shcolarship on premodern public health. The new team is based out of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, but gathers historians, (bio)archaeologists and religionists spread throughout Europe, the US, India and Australia.
Updates on both teams’ members, activities and publications can be followed through the blog and other tabs on this website as well as through the @prosanitate Twittter handle.