‘Public Health’ in the Middle Ages: Healthscaping Urban Europe
Bijeenkomst van de werkgroep ‘History, Health and Healing’
Tijd: vrijdag 7 februari 2020, 13.00-18.00 uur
Locatie: Universiteitsbibliotheek locatie Uithof, Heidelberglaan 3, Utrecht (Boothzaal)
Tijdens deze bijeenkomst van de werkgroep HHH presenteren leden van de onderzoeksgroep ‘Healthscaping Urban Europe’ hun onderzoek. Na een inleiding van Prof. Guy Geltner, die het project coördineert, volgen drie presentaties die vervolgens worden gerefereerd door twee specialisten: een in de mediëvistiek, en een in de geschiedenis van public health. Daarna is er plenaire discussie en een borrel.
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Over het onderzoeksproject:
Premodern Healthcaping brings together a group of medievalists across several disciplines to explore how urban residents in two of Europe’s most urbanized regions – Italy and the Low Countries – thought about and pursued population-level health. The 5-year project, funded by an ERC Consolidator grant, is based at the University of Amsterdam and builds on insights reached by scholars of premodern medicine, urbanism and material culture, which challenge the identification of public health as a uniquely modern phenomenon. Over the next years, this project will trace the development of community health, safety and wellbeing as a major aspect of the public good and as a key means of justifying and legitimating power in an urban context. It will explore the transmission of and tensions between medical theory and urban policy in this regard, and will examine the extent to which these were enforced from the political center outward, guarded and resisted by for instance major economic stakeholders, including the church, as well as neighborhood agents. Using a combination of methodologies drawing on anthropology, geography, cultural history and science and technology studies, this group seeks to define a new key for observing how historical communities aspired to live in places where health could bloom.
13.00-13.30: Inloop en koffie; introductie
13.30-14.00: Toekomstplannen van HHH
14.00-14.30: Guy Geltner, ‘Introduction to Healthscaping Urban Europe: Towards a multiscalar approach to Healthscaping’
14.30-15.00: Janna Coomans, ‘Healthscaping the Late Medieval Low Countries in 4 programs’
15.30-16.00: Taylor Zaneri, ‘In, Around, and Under the Medieval City: Water and Waste in 14th Century Bologna’
16.00-16.30: Claire Weeda, ‘The mediation of medical knowledge in Netherlandish cities, 1300-1500’
16.30-17.00: Referenten (Catrien Santing en Eddy Houwaart) gevolgd door plenaire discussie
Guy Geltner, ‘Introduction to Healthscaping Urban Europe: Towards a multiscalar approach to Healthscaping’
My opening remarks (10 minutes) will briefly introduce the goals and structure of Healthscaping Urban Europe, its work packages and participants, and the project’s “stand van zaken,” before letting contributors speak for themselves. My closing remarks will delve into the broader methodology we have been extrapolating from and adding to our project/s through conversations with scholars of health working across historical-cultural and paleo-scientific fields. Adopting a multiscalar approach, I argue, is a congenial way to expand and improve our conversations with health historians working with diverse admixtures of evidence in and beyond urban societies in western Europe.
Janna Coomans, ‘Healthscaping the Late Medieval Low Countries in 4 programs’
Whereas the vast majority of Europe’s inhabitants spent their lives in a rural environment, almost half of the population in Flanders lived in cities around 1350, a proportion reached in Holland by 1500. Both larger metropoles and the many dozens of Netherlandish towns with a few thousand inhabitants generated extensive series of administrative records. These sources allow studying the efforts that inhabitants and local governments undertook to prevent disease and promote health. Based on the foci and subjects that these archival sources convey, this paper argues that healthscaping practices during the fourteenth and fifteenth century can be divided into four main goals or “programs.” Netherlandish urban communities sought to ensure: 1: well-functioning infrastructures; 2: sufficient and high-quality water and food; 3: organized (but not necessarily centralized) waste disposal; 4: a morally healthy community. This paper briefly discusses what these programs entailed, and what studying them in relation to each other can tell us about the perception of health at a group level in late medieval urban society.
Taylor Zaneri, ‘In, Around, and Under the Medieval City: Water and Waste in 14th Century Bologna’
This paper examines the daily lives in, around, and under Bologna from AD 1200 to 1500. It examines how critical public health issues such as water cleanliness, domestic rubbish, and industrial waste disposal, among others, were managed by households, neighborhoods, and professionals. What kinds of waste were present in medieval Bologna, and how was it disposed of? How did the experience of health and cleanliness differ around the city? This paper analyzes and maps published archaeological evidence uncovered through excavations of the era’s houses, churches, workshops, and canals. It combines GIS, archaeological and environmental techniques with traditional historical sources, to pinpoint health hazards, sources of contamination and pollution, as well as to identify cleanliness promoting actions, and examine how “public health” varied throughout the medieval city.
Claire Weeda, ‘The mediation of medical knowledge in Netherlandish cities, 1300-1500’
In recent decades, many historians dealt with the dissemination of Greco-Arabic Galenism via western European universities from the twelfth century onwards. However, university centres of knowledge and the health experts that emerge from them, are but one of the many vectors transmitting and validating ideas, technologies and practices of the health of bodies. Monasteries or local parish schools equally served as sites of knowledge of Galenism, spiritual healing and best practices. Latin and vernacular regimens, mirrors, and books of conduct encouraged individuals to scrutinize their own health practices, teaching them self-discipline in accordance with social position, age, and gender. Norms relating to the health and hygiene of bodies, moreover, were mediated via regulations proclaimed by town criers, such as ordinances and statutes, through sermons, through health workers, in the courts, in market places (including slave trade), and in households.
Although it is evident that Netherlandish urban communities had access to and applied medical knowledge in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century regulations, to date little is known about how, by whom, why and in what context this knowledge became available to them. My paper seeks to address these questions. I will discuss, firstly, the number and origins of Netherlandish medical students in this period and their positions as city doctors and rectors of local schools. Secondly, using contemporary library catalogues produced at monasteries, chapters and courts, I will demonstrate the accessibility of specific medical texts in religious and urban communities. Thirdly, I will discuss how confraternities such as the Zielbroeders and Cellites played a significant role as health workers in Netherlandish cities in this period. Charting how medical ideas, transmitted by lay and religious workers, texts and institutions, turned into norms — that were also resisted by urban populations — will help us to understand how theory and practice intersected.