October 2023 // Upcoming Seminar. Guy Geltner, “Towards an Environmental History of Mining in Preindustrial Europe”

Guy Geltner, CI for our international research project “Pursuing Public Health in the Preindustrial World”, will present at Ghent University his presentation focusing on preindustrial mining and environmental history. As part of the specialist Medieval Seminar Series lectures.


  • When: 14.30 (Ghent local time), or 23.30 (Melbourne local time)
  • Where: Ghent University, Campus UFo, Henri Pirenne Lecture Room (1st floor), Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 35, 9000 Gent


While industrial extraction undergirds Euro-American modernisation, globalisation, colonialism and the Anthropocene, it has deep roots in medieval Europe, and specifically in a mining boom that commenced around the late twelfth century. Beyond sketching the contours of this mostly rural and understudied phenomenon, this paper argues, first, that pre-industrial mining profoundly transformed landscapes and ecologies, casting a shadow that accompanies us to this very day; and, secondly, that the communities mining helped create responded to this process in diverse ways, including medically—by developing preventative measures to curb mining’s risks, and culturally, by revisiting their perceptions of Nature, or Creation, and humans’ place in it. Preindustrial extraction, in other words, shook the very ground upon which many communities stood, both cognitively and geochemically, yet it is a phenomenon that, outside specialists circles, remains largely unknown. In part this has to do with the type of evidence miners and their observers left behind (or didn’t), which requires a combination of methods and specialisations that sometimes sit together awkwardly. My talk will reflect on the challenges of working across history, landscape archaeology and the paleo-sciences, and the rewards of reviving rare but often typical non-elite voices from the countryside.


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