Birkbeck Medieval Seminar: Hygiene and Health in the Middle Ages featuring Prof. Carole Rawcliffe

The Birkbeck Medieval Seminar presents a hybrid event with our very own Prof. Carole Rawcliffe.

The seminar is on Friday, 16 June from 10:00-17:00 (GMT). There is an option to watch the event virtually. Register here.

From the website:

Friday 16 June 2023 10:00-17:00 This event is hybrid, convening at Birkbeck, 30 Russell Square, Room 101, and also online. For participants who want to listen in remotely, a Teams link will be sent prior to the event. 

The 2023 Birkbeck Medieval Seminar focuses on hygiene in the Middle Ages, considering both attitudes and practices. Contrary to popular perception, this was a subject of great interest to medieval people, who were generally much cleaner than we assume. This interdisciplinary seminar will build on recent studies which have attempted to ‘clean up’ the Middle Ages, showing that medieval Europeans developed sophisticated strategies (informed by a coherent set of beliefs about the relationship between hygiene and health) to keep themselves and their surroundings clean. It will also consider approaches to and experiences of dirtiness, including the ascetic practices of the medieval clergy and archaeological evidence of parasitic infections. ‘Hygiene and Health in the Middle Ages’ will develop our understanding of medieval personal hygiene and public health, especially as they relate to contemporary ideas about health and medicine.

Scheduled Speakers:

Dr Janna Coomans (Utrecht University)  Fire and Flow: Sanitation and Community Politics in the Low Countries, 1300-1530

Dr Katherine Harvey (Birkbeck) ‘Tortured by Vermin’: Piety and Personal Hygiene in Later Medieval Europe

Dr Piers Mitchell (University of Cambridge) Parasites and Hygiene in Medieval Europe

Prof. Carole Rawcliffe (UEA) “Travel is a fearsome thing”: Guides to health for late medieval wayfarers.

Join us for our inaugural workshop ‘Hospitals in Crisis’ on Saturday, 25 March at 10:00 (CST)/17:00 (CET

Join the committee of the International Network for the History of Hospitals (INHH) for our inaugural virtual workshop. Crisis can manifest in so many ways: hospitals going bankrupt, operating in a warzone, sex scandals, etc. But this idea of crisis extends beyond our sources to how we, as researchers, approach our work from funding issues to writer’s block. Presenting on the theme of Hospitals in Crisis:

Sex, Lies, and Parchment: Reputation and Regulation at Narbonne’s Hospital of the Bourg in the Fourteenth Century

Anna M. Peterson (Independent Scholar)

Surviving Destruction: St Giles’s, Norwich, and the Crisis of the Protestant Reformation

Carole Rawcliffe (University of East Anglia)

Plague, Covid and the Historian

John Henderson (Birkbeck, University of London)

Conflicts and Hospital History in Twentieth-Century Uganda

Kathleen Vongsathorn (Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville)

This first meeting will set the stage for this ongoing series. The goal of these workshops is to provide graduate, postgraduate, early career, and precarious faculty with a space to discuss their thesis, research projects, and the questions and obstacles that arise from them. Too often we have worked alone on our hospitals, but the INHH is committed to creating a space where our community can come together and inspire each other’s research.

To register for the workshop:

Follow us on Twitter @HospitalHistori or check back here for upcoming workshops.

If you would like to present your work at a future INHH workshop, please contact us at:

Prof. John Henderson talks to Prof. Suzannah Lipscomb about surviving an outbreak of Plague in Seventeenth-Century Florence on Not Just the Tudors

On this episode:

Between 1630 and 1631, the city of Florence suffered its last epidemic of plague. Some 12% of the city’s population of 75,000 perished.

In this edition of Not Just the Tudors, Professor Suzannah Lipscomb talks to Professor John Henderson, historian of epidemics, about how Florence suffered, fought and survived the impact of plague – and what we might have learned from the approach of the Florentine authorities during our own recent pandemic.

Listen below:

Jane Stevens Crawshaw discusses plague in sixteenth-century Venice on the Experiencing Epidemics podcast

‘In our ninth episode, Dr. Jane Stevens Crawshaw guides our reading of Rocco Benedetti’s Accounts of some events taking place in Venice during the plague years of 1576-1577. The text is a first-hand account of one of the most devastating plague outbreaks to strike Venice in the early modern period. Its author was a notary, one of the few people allowed to move freely across the city in order to record wills and provide other services to the citizenry. His account is both informative and haunting. How did Benedetti’s work as a notary shape his views on this terrible episode of Venetian history? What did he think about the local plague hospitals’ performance and the lockdown practices ordered by the government? Find out in today’s episode!’

Listen now

Check out more episodes of Experiencing Epidemics wherever you listen to podcasts.

Catch John Henderson speaking on the Great Pox at the upcoming CSMBR webinar

Prof. Henderson presented ‘The War of Torments: Imagining and Experiencing the Great Pox in Renaissance Florence’ on 11 November 2022 at 17:00 (CET) for the Centre for the Study of Medicine and the Body in the Renaissance (CSMBR). His presentation explores the epidemic of the Great Pox and its impact on many aspects of early modern European society. In contrast to plague, which led to rapid rises in mortality, this new chronic disease led to long-drawn-out suffering, poverty, destitution and death, infecting all levels of society, from popes and cardinals to princes, courtesans and the poor. This lecture is part of an ongoing project on how the Great Pox was imagined, received and experienced in Renaissance Italy. Building on the approaches and findings of recent studies of early modern England, Germany and Spain, this lecture will compare the experience and representation of female and male Pox patients through the examination of both written and visual evidence. These will include contemporary written accounts, such as satirical and moralistic poems and plays, and visual evidence, ranging from broadsheets to medical illustrations. It will be argued, that only by analysing these sources through the prism of contemporary medical understanding of the nature of the Pox and its symptoms can we begin to understand more clearly how this disease was perceived and represented in text and image in renaissance Italy.