Medicine in the Medieval North Atlantic World – Online Conference

13–15 May 2021
Maynooth University, Ireland

This interdisciplinary conference explores the reception and transmission of medical knowledge between and across England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and Scandinavia during the medieval period, and will draw on history, literature, philosophy, science, religion, art, archaeology and manuscript studies. It will interrogate medical texts and ideas in both Latin and vernacular languages, addressing questions of translation, cultural and scientific inheritance and exchange, and historical conceptions of health and of the human being within nature.

Plenary speakers: Dr Debby Banham (University of Cambridge); Prof. Guy Geltner (Monash University); Prof. Charlotte Roberts (Durham University)

Organising committee: Dr Sarah Baccianti (Queen’s University Belfast); Dr Siobhán Barrett, Dr Bernhard Bauer & Dr Deborah Hayden (Maynooth University)

Registration
The conference will be held online on Zoom. Please email us to confirm your wish to participate at: northatlanticmedicine@gmail.com

You can find the programme and presentation abstracts here.

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Social, Legal and Emotional Aspects of Conflicts in Western Europe, 1300-1600 – Online Workshop

Thursday. 13 May 2021 16:00-18:00 CEST
Online

In premodern societies, the notions of honour and reputation helped to frame social interactions on different scales. On a personal and familial level, pursuing honour was a way to secure economic and social safety through the establishment of networks of professional cooperation and community support. On a communal level, claiming honour was a way to consolidate alliances between cities, states and professional groups. A challenged honour could be the basis for legal disputes or become conflictual, potentially leading to cycles of courtroom battles and violent retaliation that represented a threat to individuals and communities. However, violent retaliations, despite representing a threat to social cohesion on various scales, had the major advantage of restoring social positions, by reclaiming honour. Thus, in premodern societies conflicts around honour were part of a set of behavioural forms that helped define social structures of alliances and division. This set of behaviours, which has been termed an ‘economy of honour’, involved strategies in which the benefits and risks of challenging honour and using violence were carefully calculated, since these behaviours represented economic, social and political risks. In these strategies, legal contests occupied an important position, since the social standing of an individual, and the reputation of a group could help legal decisions to be made in their favour, while proving that the honour of an individual or a group that had been threatened could legally justify violent retaliations that were perceived as necessary to reclaim honour.

Honour and the practices surrounding it are also deeply embedded in social constructs, and the attitudes surrounding honour and violence have evolved across time. While historically minded sociologists such as Norbert Elias, Pieter Spierenburg and Steven Pinker have associated this evolution of attitudes to the ‘civilisation process’ and a subsequent decline of violent interactions surrounding honour, recent scholarship has challenged this view, and has been highly critical of the normative claims embedded in the concept of a civilisation process. Analysis of archival sources conducted by Barbara Hanawalt and Trevor Dean, for instance, has highlighted how court records, guilds and city statutes give a much more nuanced vision of the perceived violence of premodern societies, and demonstrated the many ways in which honour could be displayed, protected and strategically manipulated by individuals and governments to fulfil their agendas. Recent scholarship has also challenged views regarding the groups involved in conflicts surrounding honour, initially perceived as the reserved field of noble men. Manon van der Heijden and Cynthia J. Johnson have highlighted that women actively participated in honour-related conflicts, while Claude Gauvard, Andrea Zorzi and Kate MacGrath have shown how the pursuit of honour was applicable to every layer of society.

This workshop focuses on the way conflicts participated in defining interactions between individuals and groups in Western Europe between the 14th and the 16th centuries. It aims, first, to explore the similarities and differences between honour-related conflicts on different scales. Were honour-oriented conflicts used in the same way to navigate social interactions between individuals and groups? Next, it seeks to interrogate how legal systems were adapted (or not) to handle the honourable aspect of conflicts, and what paths did legal procedures create for the restoration of honour to litigants. Finally, it will investigate how emotions could influence claims to honour and conflictual interactions. On an individual level, how are some forms of violence that lead to loss of honour, if not bodily integrity, tied to self-esteem, self-perception and emotional reactions? On a group level, how can the sense of belonging to a professional association or an urban community influence the emotional and behavioural response to perceived threats to the honour of that group?

Program:

  • Scorned honour and ill repute: Emotional, social and legal implications of honour in the pacification office (Ghent, 1350-1400). Lola Digard, Phd Candidate, Universiteit van Amsterdam
  • More things are necessary for a household than four naked thighs”: Honor, material culture and late medieval marriage. Dr. Anna Boeles Rowland, Research Fellow, KU Leuven
  • Trust issues: reputation in conflicts around trade and debt in Northern European cities (c.1400-1550). Christian Manger, Phd Candidate, Universiteit van Amsterdam, and Ester Zoomer, Phd Candidate, Universiteit van Amsterdam

 Respondent: Dr. Daniel Lord Smail, Professor of History, Harvard University

Please register with l.digard@uva.nl to receive an invitation to the zoom meeting.

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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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