La vita urbana e le pratiche igieniche medievali a Bologna e in altre città

26 September 2022, 09:00-18:00
Università di Bologna (Aula 3, via Azzo Gardino 33 complesso Unione)

This conference explores the connections between population, health, and the urban environment in northern Italian cities, particularly Bologna. It brings together scholars from history and archaeology to investigate how medieval governments, institutions, and citizens defined and managed urban health and hygiene, and conversely illness and danger.


9:15-9:30 Introduzione: Guy Geltner (Università di Amsterdam e Monash)

Sessione 1 (Presiede Guy Geltner)
9:30-9:50 Rosa Smurra (Università di Bologna, Centro Gina Fasoli): Questioni di inquinamento dal punto di vista delle fonti fiscali bolognesi
9:50-10:10 Paola Foschi (Vicepresidente della Deputazione di Storia Patria per le Province di Romagna): I pozzi pubblici e privati a Bologna e loro diffusione nella città romana e medievale. Acqua sana e acqua malsana: un tentativo di analisi
10:10-10:30 Rossella Rinaldi (Archivio di Stato di Bologna): Residui animali. Note su pratiche e regole (secc. XIII-XV)

10:30-11:00 Domande e risposte
11:00-11:20 Pausa

Sessione 2 (Presiede Alessandra Cianciosi)
11:20-11:40 Lara Sabbionesi (Direzione Regionale Musei dell’Emilia Romagna): Pro maiore sanitate hominum civitatis ….et borgorum
11:40-12:00 Taylor Zaneri (Università di Amsterdam): La salute nella Bologna medievale: per una mappatura delle condizioni igieniche (secc. XIII-XIV)
12:00-12:20 Chiara Guarnieri (Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio per la città metropolitana di Bologna e le province di Modena, Reggio Emilia e Ferrara): Ferrara tra Medioevo e Rinascimento: pratiche di smaltimento e gestione dei rifiuti. Regole scritte e documentazione archeologica

12:20-12:50 Domande e risposte
13:00-14:30 Pranzo

Sessione 3 (Presiede Rosa Smurra)
14:30-14:50 Colin Arnaud (Università di Münster): Il controllo sociale, igienico e ambientale dell’Ufficio del Fango: I vacchettini dei decenni 1386-1397 e 1458-1467 a confronto
14:50-15:10 Armando Antonelli (Archivio di Stato di Bologna): Razionalità della misurazione, ordinatio-compilatio della documentazione comunale. Un caso dall’Archivio di Stato di Bologna
15:10-15:30 Domande e risposte 15:30-15:50 Pausa

Sessione 4 (Presiede Taylor Zaneri)
15:50-16:10 Mauro Librenti, Cecilia Moine, e Lara Sabbionesi (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio per le province di Parma e Piacenza, e Direzione Regionale Musei dell’Emilia Romagna): Archeologia delle strutture di assistenza e ospitalità
16:10-16:30 Alessandra Cianciosi (Università di Stanford e Amsterdam): L’approvvigionamento idrico dei centri lagunari nel Medioevo. Il caso di Jesolo (Ve)

16:30-16:50 Domande e risposte

17:00-17:30 Discussione: Sauro Gelichi (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia) e Massimo Giansante (Archivio di Stato di Bologna)


This conference will be in Italian. For receiving a Zoom link to join online, please send an email to

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Dynamic Balances: Public Health in the Premodern World

30 September 2022, 16:00-17:30
University of Amsterdam, University Library, Doelenzaal

The ERC project ‘Healthscaping Urban Europe’ will hold a concluding plenary event on 30 September, where three experts will explore the history of premodern public health and especially reflect on possible future directions within this research field. All are welcome to join in person in the Doelenzaal. The event will be followed by a drinks’ reception at Café Luxembourg on the Spui.
The presentations will also be broadcasted live via Zoom. To receive a link to the online event, please email Peyman Amiri (


Professor Guy Geltner (University of Amsterdam & Monash University)
Healthscaping Urban Europe and Beyond

Dr. Nükhet Varlık (Rutgers University, Newark)
Rethinking the History of Premodern Health

Professor Peregrine Horden (Royal Holloway, University of London & Oxford University)
Healthscape Picture Restoration: Is There a Risk of Over-cleaning?

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Communities, Environment and Regulation in the Premodern World: Essays in Honour of Peter Hoppenbrouwers

Editors: Claire Weeda, Robert Stein, and Louis Sicking
Book series: CORN Publication Series, 20
Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols Publishers, 2022

Abstract: Who had a say in making decisions about the natural world, when, how and to what end? How were rights to natural resources established? How did communities handle environmental crises? And how did dealing with the environment have an impact on the power relations in communities? This volume explores communities’ relationship with the natural environment in customs and laws, ideas, practices and memories. Taking a transregional perspective, it considers how the availability of natural resources in diverse societies within and outside Europe impacted mobility and gender structures, the consolidation of territorial power and property rights. Communities, Environment and Regulation in the Premodern World marks Peter Hoppenbrouwers’s career, spanning over three decades, as a professor of medieval history at Leiden University.

You can read this Open Access book here.

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Premodern Healthscaping at the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the History of Medicine

22 April 2022
Saratoga Springs, New York

Premodern Healthscaping team presents at the 95th Annual Meeting of the American Association for the History of Medicine in Saratoga Springs, New York. The presentation is scheduled for Session B5, 3:00-4:30 pm (EST).

B5. Health and mobility in premodern northwestern Europe 1300-1500 Broadway 1 & 2

Chair: Dora Vargha, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
1. Lola Digard, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Expiatory pilgrimages and the health of
mobility in the county of Flanders, 1300-1500
2. Janna Coomans, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Biopolitics, Health and the Itinerant
Poor in the Late Medieval Netherlands
3. Claire Weeda, Universiteit Leiden, Regulating the mobility of the able-bodied poor
and public health services in fifteenth-century cities in the Low Countries

You can find more information about the 95th Annual Meeting of the AAHM and its full programme here.

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Rural Policing in the Long Trecento: An Urban Project and Its Obstruction

Guy Geltner

Abstract: The intricacies of urban–rural relations surface with rare detail from the records of Italian field wardens (campari) from the late thirteenth to the mid-fifteenth century. Focusing on the region of Piedmont, in the peninsula’s north-west, this article traces the policing of numerous sites and species by the campari as part of an urban bio- and agropolitical project. The office reflects the growing desire of towns to control their surrounding countryside, not only for military defence, but also as an essential source of calorific and hydraulic energy, a sink for waste and a stage on which to showcase their power before internal and external audiences. Reconstructing the remits, norms and actions of field wardens thus illuminates power negotiations that were shaped by a range of environmental factors and the era’s thinking about hygiene. Yet analysing the activities and responsibilities of the campari also reveals the tactics that rural dwellers devised to contest urban discipline, for instance through self-help, concealment and the embellishment of charges made against them. From the perspective of the area’s historiography, the dynamics captured by these records challenge the centrality of landed aristocracies in narratives of political centralisation. And from a broader perspective, the granular view they afford of middling officials at work invites historians to explore what urbanisation meant at the ground level, on either side of the city walls.

You can read this Open Access article here.

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PhD Position: Preventative Medicine and the Medici Court, 1530-1737

Project description:

This PhD scholarship is an important part of the ARC-funded project “Pursuing Public Health in the Preindustrial World, 1100-1800,” led by Prof. G. Geltner.

The team project will reconstruct and analyze preventative healthcare theory, policy and practice across three regions between 1100-1800—India, the Eastern Mediterranean and Europe—through the prism of three mobile and sedentary groups: pilgrims, miners and courts. The successful applicant will join an international and multi-disciplinary research team and contribute to the wider project, while undertaking their own distinct PhD project, which they are welcome to design under the broad contours of Medici-era preventative healthcare aimed at the group level.

Undertaking a PhD as part of a larger project has several advantages. First, the successful candidate will be integrated into an international research team and agenda that has already been funded by the Australian Research Council, and will have access to funding to support archival work, digitization, travel, and conference attendance. Second, the candidate will benefit from expert supervision from research leaders in health history, archaeology and religious studies. Finally, the candidate will benefit from being part of outcomes from the research, which may include co-authored publications (where the candidate’s contributions will be recognized through co-authorship), funded symposia and workshops, school-engagement exercises, and future grant applications.

Monash University is the largest university in Australia and regularly ranks in the top 100 universities worldwide. Monash has six globally networked campuses and international alliances in Europe and Asia. The applicant will be based at the Clayton campus in Melbourne. The Arts faculty at Monash is inclusive and vibrant, and the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies (SOPHIS) combines relevant expertise in history, archaeology, philosophy and religion. The school’s high-profile Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CMRS) is a particularly congenial environment for students of premodern Europe. We have a strong and supportive research culture, led by internationally recognised scholars successful in attracting national and international competitive funding.

More information can be found after 15 April through Monash University’s website.


Prof G. Geltner, School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies (

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The Disruptive Power of Pandemics in Public Health History – Guy Geltner

Online Public Lecture
Thursday, 7 April 2022, 09:45-11:00 (CEST)

Talk by Professor Guy Geltner (Monash University) on some of the global implications of his team’s revision of “premodern” public health.

You can register through this link.

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Health, Environment and Urban Development in the Middle Ages

17-18 February 2022
Norwegian University of Science and technology, University Museum, Trondheim

The conference completes the Norwegian Research Council funded project “Medieval urban health: from private to public responsibility” (2017-2020), whose goal is to shed new light on how public health evolved from individual health practices to actions for public health; what factors caused this ground-breaking development? The overarching methodological principle has been to compare the natural and built urban environment in medieval Trondheim with the development of health, diet, and mobility. The basic information has been gathered from the large collection of well-preserved skeletons from medieval cemeteries in Trondheim. Biomolecular analyzes are applied to identify the character and volume of infectious diseases in the urban population during the period c. AD100-1600.

Please click the link below to join the webinar:
Passcode: 294304


Day 1 – February 17.02

Session 1: Health, decease and environment  – a multidisciplinary field of research

   (Moderator: Axel Chistophersen).

Medieval urban health cannot be studied withought insight in the complex relations between health, environment and social conditions, and without applying all available empirical data. How can we perform interdisciplinary research practices regarding health, disease and environmental issues in medieval urban environments? 

09.00-09.15:      Welcome, practicalities (Axel Christophersen)

09.15-09.45:      Key note speaker: Guy Geltner (Monash University, Clayton, Australia): 

Laws, LiDAR and Ligaments: A Multidisciplinary Approach to the History of Miners’ Health in Europe, c. 1200-1600.

09.45-10.15:     John Robb (University of Cambridge), Craig Cessford (University of Cambridge), Eugenia D’Atanasio (La Sapienza University, Rome), Jenna Dittmar (University of Aberdeen), Meriam Guellil (Estonian Bioscience Centre), Ruoyun Hui (Turing Institute,), Sarah Inskip (University of Leicester), Marcel Keller, Toomas Kivisild (KU Leuven), Piers Mitchell (University of Cambridge), Bram Mulder (University of Cambridge), Tamsin O’Connell (University of Cambridge), Alice Rose ()University of Cambridge, and Christiana Lyn Scheib (University of Cambridge and Estonian Bioscience Centre): 

Health and society in medieval Cambridge.

10.15-10.30:    Pause

10.30-11.00:     Hanna Dahlström (Museum of Copenhagen, Denmark) and Elizabeth Newell, Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania, US):

The first Copenhageners – An interdisciplinary investigation of burials from two medieval churchyards from Copenhagen, Denmark.

11.00-11.30:     Ole Georg Moseng (University of South-East Norway): 

Health history – an interdisciplinary field of research.

11.30-12.00:     Axel Christophersen (NTNU University Museum, Department of Archaeology and Cultural History):

                        Layers lost: Why are the cultural layers from late-medieval towns in Scandinavia so scarce?

12.00-12.30:      Plenary discussion

12.30-13.00:      Lunch

Session 2: Towns, urban landscape and environment (Moderator: Ole Georg Moseng)

The medieval towns created its own environmental conditions. What was the challenges the urban population face during the Middle Ages concerning health and decease? What measures did urban authorities implement in the urban landscape to meet these challenges?

13.00-13.30:     Erik Opsahl (NTNU Department of Historical and Classical Studies):

Trondheim as an urban center in the Late Middle Ages

13.30-14.00:      Elisabeth Swensen (NTNU University Museum, Department of Archaeology

and Cultural History):

Water management: using archaeological evidence of water infrastructure to detect their interaction with public health management.

14.00-14.15:      Pause

14.15-14.45:     Edite Martins Alberto (Center of Historical Studies in Lisbon City Hall´s Cultural Department) and Joana Balsa de Pinho (Artis –Institute of Art History (University of Lisbon): 

It would spread throughout the land with great damage” – The first public health and healthcare practices in 15th century Lisbon.

14.45-15.15:     Claire Weeda (Leiden University): 

Policing the Urban Environment and Fifteenth-Century Military infrastructures

15.15-16.45:     Terje Thun (NTNU University Museum, The National Laboratory for Age Determination) and Helene Løvstrand Svarva (NTNU University Museum, The National Laboratory for Age Determination):

Tree-ring investigations to detect events that might have influenced the health situation during the project period

16.45-17.15:      Plenary discussion

Day 2 – February 18.02 

Session 3: Looking into the future (Moderator: Hans Stenøien).

New analythical methods at the intersection of physics, biology, and genetics have provided opportunities to ask new questions and find new answers to old questions about environment, health and disease. Where are we now, and where does the road lead into the future?

09.00-09.30:      Key note speaker: Tom Gilbert The Globe Institute, Section for Evolutionary 

Genomics, University of Copenhagen: 

Historic Trondheim – what pathogens can we detect and how did they shape our genomes?

09.30-10.00:     Nina Elisabeth Valstrand (NTNU Department of Historical and Classical Studies): Old remains, new insights

10.00-10.30:     Hege Ingjerd Hollund (Museum of Archaeology, the University of Stavanger), Sean Dexter Denham (Museum of Archaeology, the University of Stavanger), Tom Gilbert (The Globe Institute, the University of Copenhagen), Axel

Christophersen (NTNU University Museum Department of Archaeology and Cultural History): 

A histotaphonomic investigation of medieval skeletal collections from Trondheim, Norway.

10.30-10.45:      Pause

10.45-11.15:      Sean Dexter Denham (Museum of Archaeology, the University of Stavanger):

Diet, health and  quality of life in medieval Trondheim.

11.15-11.45:     Jonas Bergman (The Archaeologists, National Historical Museums): 

Parasitic disease in the medieval urban environment.

11.45-12.15:     Rebecca Blakeney: 

Seeking Evidence of Monastic Medicinal Plant Use: a case study from Hovedøya Kloster

12.15-13.00:      Lunch

13.15-14.00:      Plenary discussion, summing up (Moderator: Erik Opshal) 

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“Eat, Pray, Dig: Preventative Healthcare Among Miners in Europe, 1200-1600” – Lecture by Guy Geltner

Ever since miners began excavating Europe’s „underground cathedrals” in the later twelfth century, they encountered many hazards both below and above the ground. This talk examines the cluster of dangers miners faced (or thought they faced) and the suite of preventative programs they devised to address them, on the basis of legal, scientific, administrative and pictorial sources. It also seeks to assess the latter’s limitations and impact, as they emerge from (bio)archaeological data from mining cemeteries and other archaeological remains. Tracing the preventative practices of these mostly rural communities sheds much new light on preindustrial healthscaping in Europe and its relations with the era’s prevalent medical paradigm of Galenism, which is increasingly better understood among townspeople. Furthermore, it tests new methodologies to recover and analyse miners’ sub/terranean spaces, including their unique materiality and mobility regimes. In particular, the spread of metalliferous seams, which elites could not control, and the era’s available technologies of excavation, created opportunities for miners to translate their underground agency into exterranean privileges, including those designed to preserve their health. Collectively these conditions often placed miners on the cutting edge of group prophylactics, ranging from protective gear and underground guidance systems, to expensive drainage and ventilation equipment, to balanced diets and zoning aboveground.

This lecture was delivered in Bochum University on 18 November 2021. You can watch the video recording of the lecture here.

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Interview with Claire Weeda about her new book “Ethnicity in Medieval Europe 950-1250: Medicine, Power and Religion”

Students in twelfth-century Paris held slanging matches, branding the English drunkards, the Germans madmen and the French as arrogant. On Crusade, army recruits from different ethnic backgrounds taunted each other’s military skills. Men producing ethnography in monasteries and at court drafted derogatory descriptions of peoples dwelling in territories under colonization, questioning their work ethic, social organization, religious devotion and humanness. Monks listed and ruminated on the alleged traits of Jews, Saracens, Greeks, Saxons and Britons and their acceptance or rejection of Christianity. 

Ethnicity in Medieval Europe 950-1250, Medicine, Power and Religion (Boydell and Brewer, 2021), provides a radical new approach to representations of nationhood in medieval western Europe, the author argues that ethnic stereotypes were constructed and wielded rhetorically to justify property claims, flaunt military strength, and assert moral and cultural ascendance over others. The gendered images of ethnicity in circulation reflect a negotiation over self-representations of discipline, rationality and strength, juxtaposed with the alleged chaos and weakness of racialized others. Interpreting nationhood through a religious lens, monks and schoolmen explained it as scientifically informed by environmental medicine, and ancient theory that held that location and climate influenced the physical and mental traits of peoples. Drawing on lists of ethnic character traits, school textbooks, medical treatises, proverbs, poetry and chronicles, this book shows that ethnic stereotypes served as rhetorical tools of power, crafting relationships within communities and towards others.

You can listen to this interview here.

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