Our Events

  • 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.


  • Healthscaping and Ideas of Balance: A Workshop with Joel Kaye

Thursday, 4 April 2019, 13:00-16:00

Vondelzaal, University Library (Singel 425)

Participants are warmly invited to join the workshop with Joel Kaye on ideas of balance and their impact on perceptions of public health in premodern thoughts and practices. Participants can give ten minute presentations on their own research, engaging with Joel Kaye’s A History of Balance, after which a discussion will follow.

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 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.


  • “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.


  • Medical History and Legal Systems: Public Lecture by Sara Butler

Monday, 28 January 2019, 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.



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

Thursday, 13 December 2018, 17:00-20:00

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

Presentation and Workshop with Francesco Coschino and Taylor Zaneri

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.

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.

  • Actor-Network Theory and Premodern Historiography: A Workshop with Markus Stauff

Thursday, 29 November 2018, 17:00-20:00

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

In this workshop, Markus Stauff will discuss some core text on Actor-Network Theory and together we will examine possibilities and limitations of applying this theory to analysing various geographical and historical contexts. To register and receive more detailed information, please send an email to premodern.healthscaping@gmail.com.

Markus Stauff is an Assistant Professor for Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. His fields of research include history and theory of the television; digital media; media sports; governmentality studies and cultural studies.


  • The Path to Pistoia: An Infrastructural Approach to Urban Hygiene before The Black Death

02 November 2018, 16:00-18:00.

Bushuis (Kloveniersburgwal 48), room E1.02.

In the second seminar of UvA Medieval Historians, Guy Geltner will discuss his new artile “The Path to Pistoia: An Infrastructural Approach to Urban Hygiene before The Black Death”.


  • New Horizons in Premodern Public Health: An Interdisciplinary Workshop with Kathleen Davis

Thursday, 4 October 2018, 13:00-16:00

Potgieterzaal, University Library (Singel 425)

During this workshop, members of the research team, in dialogue with Kathleen Davis, discuss various aspects of the Premodern Healthscaping research project.

Kathleen Davis is Professor of English and Medieval Studies at the University of Rhode Island. She has worked in the fields of Old and Middle English literature, translation studies, and postcolonial criticism. Most recently, her engagement with colonial histories and postcolonial theory led her to examine the periodizing process that gave us the categories of the “medieval” and the “modern,” and to investigate the relation of that process to colonial rule. She is the author of Periodization and Sovereignty: How Ideas of Feudalism and Secularization Govern the Politics of Time; and co-editor, with Nadia Altschul, of Medievalisms in the Postcolonial World: The Idea of “the Middle Ages” Outside Europe. Professor Davis has also worked on Old English literature and Old and Middle English translation, and is the author of Deconstruction and Translation.


  • “From Periodization to the Autoimmune Secular State” – Kathleen Davis

03 October 2018, 16:00-18:00.

Bushuis (Kloveniersburgwal 48), VOC room.

My main concern in this talk is the fundamental but often unrecognized work (political, legal, historical) that is accomplished by medieval/modern periodization. By medieval/modern periodization I mean the constitution of the period that we call “the Middle Ages” and its simultaneous distinction from the co-constituted “modern.” I will detail the scope and structure of this periodization and will argue, as I’ve done before, that the constitution of this Middle Ages operated as a space-clearing, exclusionary process that was fully enmeshed with the projects of colonialism. The interrelation of periodization and colonialism was crucial to the formation of academic disciplines and the categories they study, ultimately buttressing both the hegemony of the “modern” that has been so difficult to assail and the apparent undeniability of certain “early modern” events as foundational to politics as it is understood to operate today. It is very difficult to shake off a period concept such as “the Middle Ages” when the effects of its formation saturate every thread of one’s discipline.  I will also argue that the colonial legacy of this periodization fully inhabits the categories of the secular and sovereignty, as well as the intersection of these two, and that it is therefore implicated in the autoimmune process of the secular state, which I will address at the end of this talk.


  • Premodern Public Health: Comparing Cities 1250-1750

Thursday 30th August 2018
Room 22 09:00-10:30, 11:00-12:30

Address: Department of Business Studies – Roma Tre University, Via Silvio d’Amico 77 – 00145 Roma.

This session aims to bring together scholars engaged in research into public health strategies and interventions, and resilience thereto, in late medieval and early modern urban communities. This is a dynamic area of research, which is revealing the myriad of ways in which urban public health policies and practices aimed at creating healthier environments. In particular, a consideration of preventive rather than simply curative measures have revealed new spaces of medical practice, including streets, homes and workplaces alongside large civic healthcare institutions, as well as broader communities of practitioners. Until recently, medical and environmental history’s main focus steered towards post-plague epidemiology, the development of humoural theory, or hospital institutions offering physical and spiritual care. Social and medical historians, together with archaeologists, are, however, increasingly engaging in interdisciplinary research into preventative health measures directed at and/or implemented by an urban public.

Crossing geographical, disciplinary, and linguistic boundaries, this session aims to further increase understanding of how late medieval and early modern urban governments attempted to regulate urban public health through statutes and bye-laws, policed by officials and prosecuted by the judiciary, as well as responses thereto from industries, guilds, brotherhoods, communities and individuals. These dynamics of communication and contestation will be carefully situated within the built environments they helped to shape.


09:00–10:30 The View from the Street: Leet Courts as Agents of Sanitary Policing in Late Medieval English Cities.Carole Rawcliffe
Preserving and Building Healthy Urban Spaces: Solutions and Conflicts in Premodern Imperial Cities and Towns.Annemarie Kinzelbach
Minds in the Gutter: Corruption in Late Medieval Valencia.Abigail Agresta
10:30-11:00 Coffee break
11:00-12:30 Health Matters: Defining the Bonum Commune in Conflicts in Late Medieval Italy and the Low Countries.Claire Weeda
Learning from the Countryside: Field Masters (camparii) and Urban Healthscaping in Later Medieval Piedmont.Guy Geltner
Pre-industrial Water Management in Flemish Metropoli: Drawing from Archaeological Water Facilities.Roos van Oosten

Coordinators: Janna Coomans (j.coomans@uva.nl), Jane Stevens Crawshaw (jane.stevens- crawshaw@brookes.ac.uk), Claire Weeda (c.v.weeda@hum.leidenuniv.nl)

You can find more information at EAUH Conference 2018.


  • New Horizons in Premodern Public Health: A Workshop with Carole Rawcliffe

Thursday 7 June 2018, 15.30-18.00

Potgieterzaal | UB, Singel 425, Amsterdam

This workshop offers an interdisciplinary exchange between several experts in premodern public health. Carole Rawcliffe, author of Urban Bodies: Communal Health in Late Medieval English Towns and Cities (2013), one of the defining publications within the nascent field, will perform as an expert commentator on four presentations, ranging from the cultural history of medicine to urban archaeology.

Carole Rawcliffe is Professor Emerita of Medieval History at the University of East Anglia. She has published widely on the subject of medieval medicine (both spiritual and physical), hospitals, urban health and responses to disease. Together with Claire Weeda, she has edited the forthcoming volume Policing the Urban Environment in Premodern Europe (Amsterdam University Press). Other books include Medicine and Society in Later Medieval England (1995); Medicine for the Soul (1999); Leprosy in Medieval England (2006).  She also co-edited a collection of essays on East Anglia’s History (2002), a two-volume History of Norwich (2004) and a book of essays on Society in an Age of Plague (2011).


15.30-16.00.  Guy Geltner:  “General Introduction and Research Possibilities in Italy: Urban History, Archaeology and Culture”

16.00-16.30. Claire Weeda: “Organic Politics: Tying Together Public Health Theories, Politics and Practices.

16.30.  Break

16.45- 17.15. Roos van Oosten: “Mapping Health in a GIS Environment: Plague”.

17.15- 17.45.  Janna Coomans: “Healthscaping the Late Medieval Low Countries: Agents and Challenges.”

18.00  Drinks



  • Public Lecture – “Premodern Public Health: The End of an Oxymoron?”

Wednesday 18 April, 2018 at Monash University, Australia.

A video recording of the lecture in Monash University “Premodern Public Health: The End of an Oxymoron” is available online: https://arts.monash.edu/news/premodern-public-health-lecture



  • History Research Seminar: “In the Camp and on the March: How Armies Shaped Public Health History in the Premodern World”

Guy Geltner (UvA)

8 March 201815:00–17:00 – VOC-zaal, Bushuis

Public health is widely viewed as a modern pursuit, enabled especially by the emergence of democratic nation states, centralized bureaucracies and advanced medicine. While social, urban and religious historians have begun chipping away at the entrenched dichotomy between pre/modernity that this view implies, evidence for community-level prophylactics in earlier societies also emerges from a group of somewhat unexpected sources, namely military manuals. Texts composed for (and often by) army leaders in medieval Latin Europe, Byzantium and other premodern civilizations spotlight the importance of preventative healthcare well before democratization, mass urbanization and biomedicine, thus paving a new path for historicizing biopolitics from a transregional or even global perspective. Moreover, at least in the context of medieval Europe, military manuals also demonstrate the enduring appeal of Hippocratic and Galenic medicine and how that tradition continued to shape the routines and material culture of vulnerable communities such as armies, centuries after their original articulation.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

Drinks reception to follow. Please contact the organizers if you would like to join the speaker for dinner afterwards, at your own cost.(m.s.parry@uva.nl / J.J.V.Kuitenbrouwer@uva.nl)