CFP: Panel on Monasteries & Environment at ESEH2015

Chantal Camenisch (University of Bern) intends to submit one or two panels on “Monasteries and Environment” for the ESEH conference in Versailles, France (30 June – 3 July 2015). You will find more information about the planned panel in the abstract below.

We invite you to send your abstract (200 – 300 words, including the name, title, affiliation and email address of the presenter(s)) no later than 20 September 2014 to

For further information on the ESEH 2015, see

Panel Abstract

From the Early Middle Ages through the Modern Period, monasteries have played an important role in European environmental history. Depending on their religious order, the monks sought places in the wilderness near forests or floodplains. Monks cleared forests to obtain cultivated land, and they established field rotations systems. Therefore, monasteries shaped landscapes. Fish ponds were maintained in these places in order to feed the monks during lent. To maintain these fish ponds, elaborate techniques of water use were established and, for the purpose of food production and gaining medicine, the monks planted vegetables and herbs in gardens.

In addition, monasteries were places where the written tradition survived during the Migration Period and in the Early Middle Ages. The monks wrote chronicles on everything important to the monasteries where they lived, including weather anomalies and natural disasters. Later they wrote weather diaries. Written evidence of the perception of nature and the environment have also survived from the early Middle Ages.

This panel aims to trace the activities emanating from monasteries that led to changes in the environment and includes all continents and all epochs, in effort to answer the following questions: What were the reasons for the many interventions into the environment? Which methods did the monks (and nuns) apply for that purpose? How did the monks understand nature and the environment through the centuries? What sources can be used for researching these topics?

Possible topics include but are not limited to

–       Deforestation and land reclamation by monasteries

–       Concepts of landscaping used by different orders

–       Maintenance of gardens in monasteries

–       Maintenance of fish ponds

–       Techniques of water use

–       Innovations and techniques in land use

–       Forest exploitation by monasteries

–       Natural disasters and hazards hitting monasteries

–       Weather observations in monasteries

–       Resource conflicts

–       Perception of environment and nature in monasteries

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