Policing the Urban Environment in Premodern Europe; Symposium and Book Launch

Thursday, 20 June 2019, 14:00-17:00
Bushuis, F2.08B (Kloveniersburgwal 48, Amsterdam)

You are warmly invited to attend the symposium and book launch of Policing the Urban Environment in Premodern Europe, edited by Carole Rawcliffe and Claire Weeda.


Program Symposium

14.00-14.40| Carole Rawcliffe (University of East Anglia)
Cleaning up the Middle Ages: A Few Words about Policing the Urban Environment

14.50-15.30| Fritz Dross (Institut für Geschichte und Ethik der Medizin)
“Portzel” – A Premodern Piece on Public Health and Public Order

15.30-15.50| Coffee and Tea Break

15.50-16.30| Jane Stevens Crawshaw (Oxford Brookes University)
Broken Bridges and Crowded Calle: Policing Urban Ideals and Realities in Early Modern Venice

16.30-17.00| Claire Weeda (Leiden University)
Closing Remarks

The event will be followed by drinks from 17.00 at Café Luxembourg (Spui 24, Amsterdam).


Policing the Urban Environment in Premodern Europe, ed. by Carole Rawcliffe and Claire Weeda, is published by Amsterdam University Press in the series Premodern Crime and Punishment.

Contributors: Elma Brenner, Janna Coomans, Luke Demaitre, Catherine Dubé, Geneviève Dumas, G. Geltner, Annemarie Kinzelbach, Patrick Naaktgeboren, Carole Rawcliffe, Claire Weeda.

Tapping into a combination of court documents, urban statutes, material artefacts, health guides and treatises, Policing the Urban Environment in Premodern Europe offers a unique perspective on how premodern public authorities tried to create a clean, healthy environment. Overturning many preconceptions about medieval dirt and squalor, it presents the most outstanding recent scholarship on how public health norms were enforced in the judicial, religious and socio-cultural sphere before the advent of modern medicine and the nation-state, crossing geographical and linguistic boundaries and engaging with factors such as spiritual purity, civic pride and good neighbourliness.


Posted in Events | Leave a comment

Premodern Healthscaping in China

Guy Geltner and Taylor Zaneri will present their paper Mapping Health in Medieval Bologna: A Geospatial and Environmental Approach in Renmin University of China (Beijing) during a two-day conference titled The Nature of Health, the Health of Nature: Perspectives from History and the Humanities. You can read more about the conference here.

Posted in Events | Leave a comment

Water, Urban Space and Environment 1200-1700: Workshop with Chloe Deligne

Tuesday, 21 May 2019, 10:00-12:00

Oudemanhuispoort (Oudemanhuispoort 4-6), Room C1.23

As part of the ERC Healthscaping workshop series, Chloe Deligne will host a workshop on water, urban space and environment 1200-1700, with a specific focus on the Low Countries and Brussels.  A complex negotiation and manipulation of water resources, both within cities and in the countryside, created specific social-economic opportunities and challenges for late medieval and early modern people, including concerns of pollution and health risks. This makes water management and the often intricate and highly technical creation of water infrastructures a crucial but still often-overlooked factor shaping local politics and mode of coexistence.

Chloe Deligne is senior researcher at the Fonds de le Recherche scientifique (FRS-FNRS) Brussels since 2006. She has published extensively on the environmental history and the transformation of urban space under the influence of social, cultural, ecological and political factors. Adopting a long-term perspective and socio-spatial analysis are characteristic features of her work.

Posted in Events | Leave a comment

Forthcoming: “Policing the Urban Environment in Premodern Europe” Edited by Claire Weeda & Carole Rawcliffe

Tapping into a combination of court documents, urban statutes, material artefacts, health guides and treatises, Policing the Urban Environment in Premodern Europe offers a unique perspective on how premodern public authorities tried to create a clean, healthy environment. Overturning many preconceptions about medieval dirt and squalor, it presents the most outstanding recent scholarship on how public health norms were enforced in the judicial, religious and socio-cultural sphere before the advent of modern medicine and the nation-state, crossing geographical and linguistic boundaries and engaging with factors such as spiritual purity, civic pride and good neighbourliness.

You can read more about this forthcoming volume here.

Posted in Announcements | Leave a comment

“Models of Balance and Their Role in the Formation of Ideas, 1250-1375” – Public Lecture by Joel Kaye

03 April 2019, 16:00-18:00.

University Library (Singel 425), Doelenzaal.

Joel Kaye’s presentation centers on the changing ways that balance has been modeled over historical time and the profound impact these changing models exercise in the realm of ideas.  In the period of European history on which he will focus, and for the most part still today, the sense of balance’s presence or absence underlies the most crucial of human judgments: the assessment of what is ordered or disordered, beautiful or ugly, productive or destructive, healthy or sick.  While we can all recognize the breadth of meaning attached to the ideal of balance, we rarely imagine that this ideal — or the un-worded interior sense that underlies it — is susceptible to major changes within specific historical contexts.  In contrast, he hopes to provide evidence for a series of claims:  1) balance has a history;  2) between approximately 1250 and 1350  a manifestly new sense of balance and its potentialities emerged and evolved within the upper levels of university speculation; 3) this complex new sense found organization and form in a new model of balance, which represented a decisive break with the intellectual past;  4) at the model’s root lay momentous developments in medieval economic life and thought; and finally, 5) due to the utter centrality of balance as an ideal in sphere after sphere of scholastic speculation, profound changes in its modeling over this period had the effect of opening up striking new vistas of speculative possibility, making possible a profound reconceptualization of the world and its workings.

Joel Kaye is Professor of History at Barnard College/Columbia University. His scholarly interests center on medieval intellectual history, with special interests in the history of science and the history of economic and political thought. His recent research focuses on the historical inquiry on the subject of balance. In 2014 he published A History of Balance, c. 1250-1375: The Emergence of a New Model of Equilibrium and Its Impact on Thought (C.U.P.).  In 2015 The American Philosophical Society awarded this book its annual Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History. Previous publications also include Economy and Nature in the Fourteenth Century: Money, Market Exchange, and the Emergence of Scientific Thought.

Please contact premodern.healthscaping@gmail.com to receive the pre-circulated readings.

Posted in Events | Leave a comment

Medical History and Legal Systems: Public Lecture by Sara Butler

Monday, 28 January, 17:00-20:00

Belle van Zuylenzaal, University Library (Singel 425)

This workshop will explore the links between medical knowledge and judicial systems in late medieval Europe.

Abstract: Common law was an all-male system, with one glaring exception: juries of matrons. If a convicted felon requested a reprieve from execution on the grounds of pregnancy, it was the responsibility of a group of twelve matrons to perform an inspection in order to determine if she was in fact pregnant. Matrons were in a position of great authority. Their verdicts were definitive: if they decided a woman was pregnant, then she was sent back to prison. Despite the significance of their role, little is known about medieval matrons and what qualified them to sit on a jury. Were they mothers? Honorable wives? Midwives? The goal of this paper is to argue that matrons had training in obstetrics. This was particularly important for medieval matrons because the quickening (that is ensoulment, signaled by the first fetal movements) did not become the focal point of the matrons’ assessment until at least 1348.  Before this, the diagnosis was much more medically challenging as matrons had to determine whether a felon had conceived. Overall, the medieval records demonstrate great confidence in medieval matrons and their obstetrical expertise.

Sara Butler is a professor and King Georges III Chair in British history at the Ohio State University. Her research focuses on the social history of law. Her latest book, Forensic Medicine and Death Investigation in Medieval England (Routledge 2015) explores the use of medical knowledge in legal investigations surrounding death.

Posted in Events | Leave a comment

New Article by Guy Geltner: “In the Camp and on the March: Military Manuals as Sources for Studying Premodern Public Health”

Abstract: Historians tend to view public health as a quintessentially modern phenomenon, enabled by the emergence of representative democracies, centralised bureaucracies and advanced biomedicine. While social, urban and religious historians have begun chipping away at the entrenched dichotomy between pre/modernity that this view implies, evidence for community prophylactics in earlier eras also emerges from a group of somewhat unexpected sources, namely military manuals. Texts composed for (and often by) army leaders in medieval Latin Europe, East Rome (Byzantium) and other premodern civilisations reflect the topicality of population-level preventative healthcare well before the nineteenth century, thereby broadening the path for historicising public health from a transregional and even global perspective. Moreover, at least throughout the Mediterranean world, military manuals also attest the enduring appeal of Hippocratic and Galenic prophylactics and how that medical tradition continued for centuries to shape the routines and material culture of vulnerable communities such as armies.

You can access the article here.

Posted in Publications | Leave a comment

Of Cesspits and Sewers – Will Hunt

Exploring the unlikely history of sanitation management in medieval Holland

By Will Hunt

“On a balmy July afternoon, archaeologist Roos van Oosten strides through a muddied plot of land near the center of the Dutch city of Leiden and takes an exploratory sniff. The plot, bordered on all sides by apartment buildings, will soon be part of a housing development known as the Meelfabriek, but, for now, van Oosten and a team of excavators from RAAP Archaeological Consultancy are studying the remnants of a 400-year-old neighborhood.

[…] Van Oosten—along with Coomans and other colleagues—now participates in a multidisciplinary research initiative called Premodern Healthscaping. The project aims to reveal the sophistication of public health and sanitation in late medieval cities. They strive to counter the “smear campaign” carried out by the Victorians on medieval urban life. (The project motto: “Less mud-slinging and more facts.”) Contributors to the effort have archaeologically documented the ubiquity of public baths in late medieval cities, where people of every class came to wash themselves on a regular basis. They have shown that soap-making guilds were part of a booming economy, that late medieval urbanites were lovers of perfume, and that they valued clean teeth. Literary scholars have shown that medieval poets championed the joys of bathing and that knighting ceremonies culminated in scented baths.”

Read the full article here.

Posted in Announcements | Leave a comment

Science and Medicine in the Insular Middle Ages

Queen’s University Belfast
7th December 2018

This one-day symposium focuses on the reception, transmission and translation of scientific and medical knowledge in the Insular Middle Ages. The papers presented overview a variety of subjects: Old and Middle English, Old and Middle Irish, Latin, Old Norse, Medieval Welsh, as well as archaeology, manuscript studies, historical linguistics,and history of science.

This symposium offers a platform of discussion for scholars interested in the reception and transmission of scientific and medical knowledge over several centuries and across borders in England, Ireland, Wales, and Scandinavia.

You can find more information here.

Posted in Events | Leave a comment

Preserving the Past in 3D. Application of GIS and Photogrammetry to Human Burials

Presentation and Workshop with Francesco Coschino and Taylor Zaneri

Thursday, 13 December, 17:00-20:00

Oudemanhuispoort (Oudemanhuispoort 4-6), Room C1.23

This workshop presents preliminary results of an urban health analysis of medieval Bologna, as part of the Healthscaping Urban Europe project; this project is examining medieval health in Italy and the Low Countries, from AD 1200 to 1500. What was city life like in medieval Bologna? What were the health risks urban dwellers faced? This research uses GIS to correlate archaeological and historical information relating to urban infrastructure, waste disposal, and population before and after the Black Death. It examines how health and urban cleanliness differed within and around Bologna during this critical period, and how health promoting strategies changed over time.

Archaeology is, by its very nature, a destructive discipline: to uncover buried features we are forced to remove the past in layers, one by one, working back in time. The destruction of evidence that remained unaltered for centuries or millennia is the price we pay to learn about the past. When considering the excavation of any archaeological site, professionals should assess the impact of their actions and ensure that the results of their work outweigh the inevitable alteration of the subject matter.

The archaeological excavation of cemeteries has the potential to provide important information on the lifeways of past people, to complement historical records with physical evidence, and to ensure that the lessons of the past are not forgotten. Additionally, when a project aims to recover the past for the benefit of the entire community, archaeological investigations can play a major role in leading the restoration and preservation of valuable historical sites.

In recent years, technological advances have allowed archaeologists to incorporate tools and techniques that were developed in other disciplines, but whose application to archaeology has the potential to largely enrich our documentation capabilities. For instance, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), initially developed in cartography, now represent the gold standard for archaeological mapping and spatial analyses, with ever-growing applications and capabilities.

Digital photogrammetry is a more recent introduction into the archaeologist’s digital toolkit and its application to human burials holds high promise. Digital photogrammetry is a discipline based on photography and measurements that, by using photographs and specific software, allows to obtain a virtual model of an object that entirely preserves its original dimensional proportions.

One of the most important features of photogrammetry is that it gives researchers the ability to study objects without the need for physical interaction. This is particularly important when dealing with very fragile items, which may lay undisturbed in their original context (or in conditions suitable for their preservation). Photogrammetry is not limited to small objects, but can be applied also to larger structures (e.g., buildings) and objects that are inaccessible but visible. Ultimately, if something can be seen and photographed, it may be processed and converted into a 3D model. When applied to human burials, photogrammetry proves to be an exceptional means toward documentation and preservation that goes beyond conventional two-dimensional tools. In spite of the destructive nature of archaeology, photogrammetry allows to create a virtual replica of a burial, which will always be available for study even after the original feature has been removed from its original context. Furthermore, a 3D replica of a burial that may have been damaged or lost will always be much more revealing than a simple, conventional data sheet.

The contribution will examine the survey techniques and geographical management of data from archaeological and bio-archaeological contexts, focusing on some case studies in Italy and in the United States concerning episodes of cholera epidemics.

Francesco Coschino is a Medieval Archaeologist and Paleopathologist at the University of Pisa, Italy. He is the president of IRLAB (Institute for Research and Learning in Archaeology and Bioarchaeology), USA. His research interests involve archaeology, humanistic informatics, paleopathology and physical anthropology; he is particularly interested in computer models and their applications to collection and management of anthropological data. He is involved in anthropological/archaeological research and professional archaeological excavations and collaborates with Italian universities and institutions as well as Ohio State University.

Taylor Zaneri is a medieval archaeologist from New York. Her dissertation research examined the impact of lower-class rural producers in the emergence of the medieval city-state of Lucca, using geospatial, landscape, and zooarchaeological methods. She is currently working as a post-doctoral researcher as part of Dr. Guy Gelter’s Healthscaping Urban Europe project, using GIS to examine health and cleanliness in medieval Italian cities from 1200-1500.

Posted in Events | Leave a comment