(2017-2022) public health, europe

“Healthscaping Urban Europe, 1200-1500”

2017 – 2022, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

“Healthscaping Urban Europe, 1200-1500” is a completed research project. It brought together 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 project built on insights by scholars of premodern medicine; urbanism; and material culture, which collectively challenged the identification of public health as a uniquely modern phenomenon.

A key achievement of this project has been that of tracing 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 has 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 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 defined a new key for observing how historical communities aspired to foster places where health could bloom.

Funding generously provided by European Research Council.

Our team members included:

Guy Geltner (Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Claire Weeda (Universiteit Leiden, The Netherlands)
Janna Coomans (Universiteit van Amsterdam and Utrecht University)
Taylor Zaneri
Léa Hermenault (Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Lola Digard (Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Peyman Amiri (Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Project outputs

1. We published widely, producing several high-quality journal articles and monographs on public health in premodern Europe. These include:
i] Guy Geltner’s Roads to Health, which won 2019 best book in medieval studies from the American Association of Italian Studies.
ii] Janna Cooman’s Community, Urban Health and Environment in the Late Medieval Low Countries, which was the topic of a New Books Network podcast interview.
iii] Taylor Zaneri and Guy Geltner’s ‘The dynamics of healthscaping: mapping communal hygiene in Bologna, 1287-1383.’, which won the annual Dyos prize for best article in urban history.

2. We developed interactive health maps of medieval Bologna and Ghent with the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

3. We presented at various conferences and seminars on the topic of premodern public health, including our own final conference, “Dynamic Balances“, in 2022.

4. We participated in paradigm-shifting public engagements during the COVID-19 pandemic, including via a blog post and radio interview.

Want to know more? Explore our team members and their activities through Open Access publicationsblog posts, and events.

An image from the interactive health map of Bologna, developed by this team. https://uvagis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=98eac4af36ce49cbacb97c167f6dce43
An example image from the interactive health map of Bologna, developed by this team.https://uvagis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=98eac4af36ce49cbacb97c167f6dce43