Infectious Disease and Public Health: Lessons from History – Webinar

Thursday, 22 April,  17:00 AEST
Online

In 2020 Covid-19 reminded us all that we can learn valuable lessons from the history of infectious disease. This webinar brings together three historians of public health in very different eras and contexts, presenting historical research which can help us better understand and manage infectious disease in the 21st century.

Guy Geltner (Monash University), ‘Public health in the premodern world: The end of an oxymoron’: The new field of premodern public health has rose to some prominence during the outbreak of Covid-19, as health professionals, policy makers and ordinary citizens became aware of the efficacy of ‘low tech’ solutions often associated with earlier, ‘unhygienic’ eras. This presentation will summarize some of the field’s key insights and how they challenge entrenched narratives of modernization and common practices of cultural othering today.

Warwick Anderson (University of Sydney) considers ‘Crisis in the Herd: A Short History of R0 and Disease Modelling’: Statistical models and simulations have recently come to dominate the framing of epidemic disease, giving us concepts of ‘waves’ and ‘flattening the curve’ – but where do they come from, and where are they directing us?

Geraldine Fela (Monash University), ‘From Condoman to Community Control: Indigenous public health, nursing and HIV in the 1980s’: As HIV spread through Australia’s gay community in the early 1980s many predicted that the virus would cause a public health crisis of unprecedented proportions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, but this never eventuated. This paper will examine the extraordinary public health approach that was responsible for this success, an approach led by Indigenous nurses and healthcare workers and informed by the politics of self-determination and community control.

Presenter Bios 

Warwick Anderson, MD, PhD, is Janet Dora Hine Professor of Politics, Governance and Ethics in the Department of History and the Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney; and a honorary professor in the School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne.

Geraldine Fela is in the final year of her PhD candidature at Monash University. Her thesis examines the experiences of HIV and AIDS nurses in Australia prior to the introduction of anti-retroviral therapy. Her research looks at the intersection of oral history, labour history, histories of gender and sexuality and social movement studies.

Guy Geltner is a social historian of health, cities and punishment at Monash University and the University of Amsterdam. His work can be explored at www.guygeltner.net.

 

Al Thomson, Professor of History at Monash University, will host the evening and HCV Executive Officer Alicia Cerreto and Monash University’s Dr Susie Protschky will facilitate the discussion.

You can register here.

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Salutaria! Perspectives on Health and Wellbeing in Medieval and Early Modern History

Friday, 23 April,  9:00 to 16:30 AEST
Online

The preservation of health and the pursuit of wellness were major preoccupations during the Medieval and Renaissance period. This was not limited to just the body but also to the mind, the soul, the community and the environment. As a complex subject that affected everybody, the quest for wellbeing was understood and experienced in a multitude of ways. This symposium aims to explore both the changing and continuing perceptions of wellbeing during the medieval and early modern period as well as the various strategies people employed to pursue it for themselves and for others.

Keynote: 

Professor Guy Geltner (Monash University)
“Health and the Environment Beyond the Simplex of the Pre”

Speakers:

Elizabeth Burrell (Centre for Medieval and Studies, Monash University)
Dr Merav Carmeli (Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation, Monash University)
Nat Cutter (School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne)
Dr Aydogan Kars (Centre for Religious Studies, Monash University)
Rosa Martorana (Centre for Medieval and Studies, Monash University)
Dr Melissa Raine (School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne)
Dr Kathryn Smithies (School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne)
Dr Richard Tait (Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Monash University)
Gordon Whyte (Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University)

You can find the programme and register here.

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Kinetic health: Ecologies and mobilities of prevention in Europe, c. 1100-1600

G. Geltner

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The dynamics of healthscaping: Mapping communal hygiene in Bologna, 1287–1383

Taylor Zaneri & G. Geltner

AbstractThis article traces how urban communities operating with a humoral or Galenic medical paradigm understood and confronted the health challenges facing them, using the extraordinarily well-documented case of Bologna, Italy. Working within a GIS environment, the authors spatially analyse over 3,500 events recorded by the Ufficio del fango concerning violations of the city’s health-related ordinances, augmented by other demographic and material data. As such, the study not only adds specificity to recent attempts to enrich the field of pre-modern public health, but also demonstrates that the Bolognese administration had a sophisticated and evolving understanding of communal health risks, and exposes several discrepancies between policy and practice.

You can read this Open Access article here.

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Underground and Over the Sea: More Community Prophylactics in Europe, 1100-1600

By Guy Geltner and Claire Weeda

AbstractPublic health historians have repeatedly shown that the theory, policy, and practice of group prophylactics far predate their alleged birth in industrial modernity, and regularly draw on Galenic principles. While the revision overall has been successful, its main focus on European cities entails a major risk, since city dwellers were a minority even in Europe’s most urbanised regions. At the same time, cities continue to be perceived and presented as typically European, which stymies transregional and comparative studies based at least in part on non- or extra-urban groups. Thus, any plan to both offer an accurate picture of public health’s deeper past and fundamentally challenge a narrative of civilizational progress wedded to Euro-American modernity (“stagism”) would benefit from looking beyond cities and their unique health challenges. The present article begins to do so by focusing on two ubiquitous groups, often operating outside cities and facing specific risks: miners and shipmates. Evidence for these communities’ preventative interventions and the extent to which they drew on humoral theory is rich yet uneven for Europe between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries. Methodological questions raised by this unevenness can be addressed by connecting different scales of evidence, as this article demonstrates. Furthermore, neither mining nor maritime trade was typically European, thus building a broader base for transregional studies and comparisons.

You can read this Open Access article here.

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Call for Papers: 27th Annual Meeting of the European Association of Archaeologists

Keeping Apart and Coming Together: Mobility Restrictions and Confinement as Health Practices in a Longue Durée Perspective

Theme: 2. Pandemics and climate change: responses to global challenges
8-11 September 2021

This session focuses on two key questions: how did past societies, especially after Antiquity, use strategies of mobility and spatial knowledge to overcome or to prevent climatic, environmental and epidemic catastrophes? How did human actors link these strategies to the promotion of human, animal, and environmental health? Pre-modern communities have always faced dramatic and sometimes severe crises, such as environmental devastation, failure of crops, pollution, the proliferation of disease in both humans, animals, and non-animals. Archaeology and history tell us that these crises have prompted shifts in the ways that people inhabited their settlements and surrounding landscapes. Mitigation of negative impacts and pre-emption upon of these events by careful planning often required changes grounded in movement and in use of space. Thus mobility and spatial thinking were connected to maintaining and fostering health and safety, triggering social and cultural changes of short or long duration, not only from a reactive but also from a proactive perspective. Such actions could include physically isolating or creating barriers to sick individuals, moving communities from resource poor locations to resource dense locations, constructing specific zones or facilities for waste removal, or conversely regulating or protecting sources of water and food. Therefore promoting health required the ability to recognize the risks contained or intrinsic to a place, and to implement solutions which removed, separated or mitigated the potentially harming matter.
The main aim of this session is to bring together scholars who can build on their chronological, geographical as well as disciplinary expertise to examine common patterns and dissimilarities in the ways that different societies coped with negative impacts of disease and climatic crises, especially through changes in mobility and in space organization. We particularly welcome interdisciplinary papers which involve the integration of different scientific methods (archaeology, history of science, anthropology, climatology).
The deadline for abstract submission is the 11th of February.

You can register and find more information here.

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Politics of Movement: Exploring Passage Points in Responses to COVID-19 and the Plague in the Fifteenth-Century Netherlands

Authors: Janna Coomans, Claire Weeda

Abstract
Engaging the concepts of flow, circulation and blockage can help us to understand the trajectories of pandemics and the social responses to them. Central to the analysis is the concept of obligatory passage points through which networks must pass. Attempts by various actors to control the movement through them, be they government authorities, health experts and caregivers, economic producers or consumers, can create social tensions. Such tensions were duly recognised during the recurring outbreaks of the plague in the Second Plague Pandemic between the fourteenth and the seventeenth centuries. Analysing historical plague ordinances allows us to expose the power mechanisms impacting networks as they move through spaces, and to remain critical of how circulation is controlled and moralised. We argue that historians can contribute to reviewing these mechanisms behind the spread of epidemics and the responses to them from the perspective of movement and blockage.

You can read this Open Access article here.

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Book Review: “Fumiers! Ordures! Gestion et usage des déchets dans les campagnes de l’Occident médiéval et moderne”

Marc Conesa, Nicolas Poirier (dir.), Fumiers! Ordures! Gestion et usage des déchets dans les campagnes de l’Occident médiéval et moderne. Actes des XXXVIIIes Journées internationales d’histoire de l’abbaye de Flaran, 14 et 15 octobre 2016, Toulouse (Presses universitaires du Midi) 2019, 302 p. (Flaran, 38), ISBN 978-2-8107-0609-9, EUR 25,00.

Guy Geltner

“From cover to cover, this stimulating book brings to light the ways in which past societies managed waste, especially in the countryside. Or differently put, how communities extended certain matters in space and time in pursuit of sometimes competing agendas and under the restrictions imposed by matter itself and its physical surroundings. Ten case studies cover much of present-day France, with a further four chapters anchored in the British Isles, the southern Low Countries, northern Iberia and Majorca. The chronological scope is strategically broad, collectively stretching from the 13th to the 20th century, and is designed to question common assumptions about periodization as regards for instance agricultural production and urban waste management. Last but not least, the volume as a whole, and not few of its constituents, straddle different methodologies and several archaeological and historical sub-disciplines, once again in a conscious (and by all means successful) attempt to underscore the value of working across traditional divides.”

You can read the full review here.

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Call for Papers: Health, Environment and Urban Development in the Middle Ages

6-7 October 2021
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.

The aim of the conference is to share results and promote interdisciplinary debate amongst international colleagues who have worked across disciplines with research questions related to health, environment, and medieval urban development. We welcome papers from archaeology, history, ancient DNA, paleobotany, zoology, climate science, linguists, literary studies, and other relevant disciplines.

We welcome proposals for papers of 20 minutes in length (+ 10 minutes of discussion) engaged with the session themes.

Proposals should not exceed 200-300 words, and are to be sent to Elisabeth Forrestad Swensen, e-mail: elisabeth.swensen@ntnu.no by no later than September 15, and should contain the following information: Name, institutional affiliation (if any), Email.

Keynote speakers: Prof. Guy Geltner, Monash University, Melbourne and prof M. Thomas P. Gilbert, Centre for Geogenetics, University of Copenhagen

Organizing committee: Prof. Axel Christophersen (Department of Archaeology and Cultural History, NTNU University Museum), Prof. Hans K. Stenøien (Department of Natural History, NTNU University Museum), and senior research fellow Elisabeth Forrestad Swensen (Department of Archaeology and Cultural History, NTNU University Museum).

Sessions

Day 1:

9-12: Urban landscape and environmental impact

The medieval urban landscape created its own environmental challenges but seems also to have affected the town’s surroundings in a negative way. What environmental changes did the urban population face in long-term perspective? How did it change living conditions, nutrition and diet, mobility, and migration?  How did the urban population respond to these challenges? And what measures did urban authorities implement to meet the environmental changes?

13-16: Old history, new insights

What new comprehension of medieval urban health has developed from cross-disciplinary research in the wake of the development of techniques such as paleogenetic/genomics, stable-isotope analysis and lipid analysis?

Day 2:

9-12: Health history – an interdisciplinary field of research

Medieval urban health and disease cannot be studied in full, with insight into the complex relations that exist between health and social conditions, without utilizing all available empirical data. Consequently, the question is: how can we create interdisciplinary research practices regarding health and disease issues in medieval urban environments? What are the possibilities and challenges? And how do we communicate methodological problems across research traditions and knowledge ideals?

13-16: Looking into the future

New methods of analysis which have been developed in recent decades, at the intersection of physics, biology, and genetics, have provided opportunities to investigate new areas within health and disease development. We can find the answer to old, and ask new, questions. Where does the road lead into the future, regarding methodological opportunities and analytical approaches?

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Centring Race in History: Antiquity to the Present (online conference)

23-25 November 2020

Organised By:
International Centre on Racism, Edge Hill University, UK.
MONITOR Global Intelligence on Racism magazine, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, Italy (EUI).
Department of History & Civilization, EUI.

What should be the place of race in historiography and historical practice? The last few decades have witnessed a flowering of the historical study of race. Yet most of this scholarship has been confined to late modern colonial, global, and postcolonial histories, with little interest from other fields. In medieval and early modern studies, the bulk of writing on race has been produced by those working in literature rather than history. And if we look to the big treatments of history that have been growing in popularity in the profession and the book trade in recent years, race barely features.
The aim of our conference is to confront this marginalization of race in history, and to consider how we can centre race in our discipline: theoretically, methodologically, and empirically. We are interested in submissions concerning every period of human history, and all fields in our discipline.

Claire Weeda will present her paper “Ethnic Stereotypes: Religion, Environmental Thought and Power in Western Europe 950-1250” on 24 November.

You can find the programme and register here.

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