ASEH 2017 Conference – Chicago

The American Society for Environmental History (ASEH) will hold their 2017 conference in Chicago, March 30-April 2. Unfortunately, there are very few pre-modern papers at the conference this year. Here is a list of those:

Navigating the North Atlantic Past through Archaeology, History and the Environmental Humanities, Thu, March 30, 3:30 to 5:00pm, with these papers:

  • Steven Hartman & George Hambrecht, The Inscribing Environmental Memory Project: interdisciplinary environmental humanities, archaeology and Icelandic Sagas
  • Poul Holm, North Atlantic Fisheries Revolution, c.1400-1700: climate, ocean productivity, and markets
  • Richard Oram, Diseased, Cold, Violent, and Scottish: environmental data and the revision of Scotland’s medieval history
  • Francis Feeley & Ramona Harrison, Zooarchaeology and Icelandic Fisheries- Progress and Potentials

Conservation in Historical and Comparative Perspective: Woodlands in Europe
Thu, March 30, 1:30 to 3:00pm, with these papers:

  • Richard Keyser, Medieval Conservation: The Example of French Woodlands
  • Alexander Olson, Sustainability in Byzantium
  • Alasdair David Ross, “Ane Great Distroyer of Woddis”: Counting Trees and Woodland Sustainability in 16th Century Scotland

Other early modern papers in mixed sessions:

  • Amber Roberts Graham, No Flatterer: Equine Complicity and Human Veracity in Stuart England, in Session A Change of Plans
  • Stefan Peychev, A Thermal Spring and Its City: Describing Early Modern Ottoman Sofia, in Session Ottoman Empire

CFP: Panels on Intentional Preindustrial Sustainability

Call for Papers for two panels under the theme “Intentional Preindustrial Sustainability: Practices, Norms, and Ideas in Europe” at the upcoming “Premodern Ecologies” conference organized by the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Oct. 20-22, 2016 (

These panels will examine preindustrial European usages of and reflections about natural resources that were geared more or less consciously towards ensuring productivity over the long term. In many cases intentional sustainability is most apparent in the management of commons or public resources, where concerns for maintaining pastures, woods, and wildlife have produced, among other things, abundant normative and regulatory texts. But contributors may also examine how preindustrial people managed privately-held land and resources, where for example efforts to provide ongoing productivity shaped arable farming, gardening, arboriculture, animal husbandry, and other agrarian practices. Other approaches to the larger topic of preindustrial sustainability are also welcome.

Those interested should send proposals of 250 words or less as soon as possible, and not later than May 24th, to both Abigail Dowling ( and Richard Keyser (

CFP Earth, Air, Water & Fire sessions at Kzoo 2016

ENFORMA would like to announce that we have received four (!) sessions for the 2016 Kalamazoo International Congress on Medieval Studies (12-15 May 2016). We are looking for presenters from across the spectrum of medieval studies for sessions organized around the medieval elements: Earth, Air, Water, and Fire.

Hopefully each session will involve cross- and trans-disciplinary connections. This elemental organization encourages both a focus on medieval understandings of the world (rather than just modern ecological ones) and a creative re-arranging of some of the traditional ways of grouping sessions. For example, a paper on medieval water management could now productively share session space with a paper on medieval religious ideas about water as a purifying agent. So in addition to environmental historians, we invite religious scholars, literary scholars, art historians, and others who are actively connecting their own work to that of the increasingly deep and relevant field of medieval environmental history to propose papers.

ENFORMA and the environmental history sessions have a long history at the Medieval Congress, and a presence that is increasingly visible and valuable. In 2013 our two sessions each had over 40 people in attendance (standing room only!). Eager to encourage a wider conversation about how environmental history matters to medieval studies, we are not pre-filling sessions, and open them to all interested parties. Information on the requirements for application will be available through the International Congress website (

Contact Ellen Arnold (Ohio Wesleyan University) directly at with questions and proposals. Proposals are due to Ellen no later than 15 September 2015.

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

ENFORMA at Kzoo2014

ENFORMA is sponsoring two sessions at the upcoming International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, 8-11 May 2014. These are:

Medieval Environments I: Disasters
(Session 401 in Schneider 1125)
Presider: Ellen F. Arnold

Epidemics, Epizootics, and Famine in Ireland, 500–800 AD, Michelle Ziegler, St. Louis Univ.

Volcanic Events and European Climate Extremes, 670–730 CE, Conor Kostick, Univ. of Nottingham

The Beginning of the End: Sheep Panzootics and Fortunes of Wool Industry in
England, 1250–1330, Philip Slavin, Univ. of Kent

Medieval Environments II: Resource Exploitation
(Session 456 in Schneider 1125)
Presider: Richard C. Hoffmann, York Univ.

Philip II Augustus and Woodlands: The Relationship of Politics, Economics, and
Woodland Management, Kathryn E. Salzer, Pennsylvania State Univ.

A Long Durée Peace out of Captivity: Medieval Church Reform from Practice
to Ideologyee of Legislation: Firewood Collection and Usage in Medieval and
Early Modern France, Richard Keyser, Univ. of Wisconsin–Madison

Strategies and Ecologies: Hunting in Northern and Central Italy between 1300
and 1500, Cristina Arrigoni Martelli, York Univ.


Medieval EH at 2014 Conferences

The next American Society for Environmental History conference will be in San Francisco (USA) 12-16 March 2014. Unfortunately, premodern environmental history is woefully underrepresented on the program, with only one paper mentioning the medieval period in the title: Maïka De Keyzer, The disappearance of the tragedy of the commons. Sand drifts and collective action during the Late Middle ages in the Campine area, Southern Low Countries (on Panel 5-G).

Luckily, the 2nd World Congress for Environmental History in Portugal 8-12 July promises to make up for the ASEH’s paltry offerings. A review of the draft program yielded the following presentations on medieval environmental history:

8 July

Session: Wetland Cultures

Jim Galloway, Wetlands and Woodlands: Interactions around the Thames Estuary (SE England) in the Middle Ages

9 July

Session: Aquacultures: Promises, Practices, Problems, I

Richard C. Hoffmann, Domesticating Common Carp in Medieval Europe

Session: Comparative Fisheries

Antonio M. Teixeira & Cristina Brito, Digging into our Whaling Past Portugal (Mainland) as a Former Whaling Nation

Session: Coping with Pests

Elina Gugliuzzo & Giuseppe Restifo, Locust Invasions and Climatic Factors in the Mediterranean

Session: European Animals — Real and Imagined

Rob Lenders, “An Hund Wildra Horsa and Sextene Tame Hencgstas” – The Myth of wild Horses in Medieval Europe

Hannele Klemettila, “Qu´on ne les Tuast pas Faussement”. Gaston Fébus on the Decline of Wild Life at the End of the Middle Ages

Session: Changing Views of Primates

Catarina C.N. Casanova & Cecília Veracini, Animal Distribution in Guinea-Bissau and how Non Human Primates Were Perceived in the 16th and 17th Century Chronicles: From Anatomical Descriptions to Tool-use Behaviour

Session: Program Committee Selection

Francis Ludlow, The Environmental Contexts of Subsistence Crises, Mass Mortalities and Social Conflict in Ireland, 425-1649 CE

Session: Ligurian Landscapes: 20 Years of Interdisciplinary Case Studies

Charles Watkins, Ross Balzaretti & Diego Moreno, Historical Rural Landscapes in the Apennines and Climate Changes

10 July

Session: Fueling Pre-modern Economies: Energy Production and Consumption before the Industrial “Revolution”

Rick Keyser, Wood for Burning: Firewood Production and Collection in Medieval France

Session: The Socio-political Leverage of Extreme Weather Events in Late Medieval Europe

Martin Bauch, More than Divine Wrath – Perception of Extreme Weather Events in Late Medieval Italy

Thomas Labbé, “Toute Chose se Desnature”: Environmental Changes of the 14th Century from the Perspective of Contemporary Witnesses (c. 1330-1400)

Linnéa Rowlatt, Some Religious Perceptions of Nature in Late Medieval Alsace

Session: Ways as a Means of Space Exploration

Irina Konovalova, Route Data as a Tool of Describing the World in Islamic Geography of the Ninth and Tenth Centuries

Tatjana N. Jackson, Ways (Vegar) of Medieval Scandinavians

Galina Glazyrina, The Way as a Representation of Moral and Ethical Transformations in the Icelandic Sagas

11 July

Session: Poster Presentations

Pavel Raska & Vilem Zabransky, A Central-European Perspective on the Learning-through-the-Past Paradigm in Disaster Studies

Renata Pavelkova Chmelova & Jindrich Frajer, Extinct Ponds in tbe Czech Republic

Session: Urban Farming throughout History – Part 1: More than Shovels, Henhouses and Seed: Urban Farming as a Promoter for Structural and Cultural Change from the Middle Ages to the 20th Century

Dolly Jørgensen, Foul Fowl: The Challenges of Keeping Birds in Medieval Urban Spaces

Chantal Camenisch, Cabbage, Beans and Apples: Agricultural Production within the City Walls in the Western Part of the Swiss Confederacy during the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period

12 July

Session: Marine Cultural Environments

Eva Panagiotakopulu, Medieval Cultural Landscapes: Interaction and Subsistence in the North Atlantic Region

Session: Changing Coastlines. The Impacts of Human Activities in Coastal Zones

Maria Rosário Bastos, Olegário Pereira, Sérgio Rodrigues, João Pedro Tereso, & João Pedro Ribeiro, Vegetation in the Portuguese Coastal Interface in a Broad Diachronic Perspective. Case Studies from the West Coast, near the Aveiro Lagoon

Session: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Pestilence, War, Famine and Death

Richard D. Oram, Timor Mortis Conturbat Me: Death and the Scots c.1350-1500

Alasdair D. Ross, Verus Valor: A Mid-14th Century Scottish Reaction to One or Two (or all) of the Four Horsemen?

Mortality crises between the plagues workshop


at the Stirling Management Centre, 12-13 November 2013

Organised by Dr. Timothy P. Newfield, University of Stirling

An interdisciplinary and international workshop supported by the University of Stirling and the Economic History Society, “Mortality Crises between the Plagues: Epidemics, Epizootics and Food Shortages, c.800-c.1300 CE” takes place at the University of Stirling, Scotland, 12-13 November 2013.

Participating scholars will address European mortality crises between the last outbreak of the Justinianic Plague in 750 (or 767) and the irruption of the Black Death in 1346. The Justinianic Plague and Black Death have absorbed the industry of historians of medieval disease, economy and medicine sensitive to mortality crises for more than five decades. Though interest in these pandemics has only grown in recent years with the explosion of aDNA studies of Yersinia pestis, the bacterium most consider to have caused them, the Justinianic Plague and Black Death did not occur in a ‘crisis vacuum.’ New research has illuminated several important inter-plague crises in human and livestock populations and has re-emphasised the severity of the best-known inter-plague crisis, the Great European Famine of 1314-1322. The late eighth through early fourteenth century was not a period of demographic respite. It was not salubrious by pre-modern standards or pathogenically benign. Europe may have experienced significant population growth, rapid urbanisation and large agricultural colonisation in the inter-plague period, but these developments were not dependent on a release from exogenous sources of widespread excess mortality. The extension of trade, expansion of population centres, growing market dependence, and increasingly regular contact between regions in the inter-plague period facilitated the dissemination of disease and the development of significant food shortages.

The workshop will build on and synthesise recent scholarship. Its four primary objectives are to identify inter-plague epidemics, epizootics and subsistence crises in time and space, to gauge the demographic and economic fallout of these events, to consider temporal and spatial trends in their occurrence, and to examine possible synergy between disease, hunger and climate in the inter-plague period. In addressing these issues, the meeting intends to improve our understanding of European demography and population health between the Justinianic Plague and the Black Death, and to provide a proper crisis context, hitherto lacking, in which the Justinianic Plag ue and Black Death may be better understood.

World Congress of Environmental History 2014

The Call for Proposals for the World Congress of Environmental History 2014 to be held 8-12 July in Guimarães, Portugal has been extended to 9 September 2013. Details about the submission process can be found online at Proposals for individual papers, panels, and posters on medieval environmental history topics are highly encouraged!

ESEH 2013 Medieval Papers

A look through the ESEH 2013 program yielded a heafty list of papers dealing with medieval environmental history:

Climate and weather informations in Russian chronicles before AD 1500, U. Bieber (Austria), Session 1G

Between Latin and Lake Sediments: Environmental history of the Middle Ages, E. Zbinden (Switzerland), Session 1K

Why summer 1540 was likely warmer and dryer than 2003, O. Wetter (Switzerland), Session 2G

Human and ecological consequences of the 1540 Mega-drought – lessons for the future, C. Pfister (Switzerland), Session 2G

Salmon ‘fishings’ in later Medieval Scotland: Competition and conservation for a riverine resource, R. Hoffmann (Canada), Session 2I

Ice blocking and shipping in the low countries, 14th-18th centuries, A. Kraker (Netherlands), Session 3I

Conceptions of order in regulations of fish in the 16th century – river vs. lake, C. Sonnlechner (Austria), Session 6H

Regulating fishermen and aquatic life. Lake constance fisheries from c. 1350 to 1800, M. Zeheter (Germany), Session 6H

Agrolandscapes of terraced fields of the Northern Caucasus and their analogues in the Middle Don forest-steppe zone in the 1st Millennium AD, D. Korobov, (Russian Federation), Session 7D

Historical paradoxes of Medieval Northern agriculture at the Russian North, O. Trapeznikova (Russian Federation), Session 7D

Ancient Novgorod taxation unit “obzha” as an assessment of “quality” of medieval agrarian landscape, A. Frolov (Russian Federation), Session 7D

Connecting and separating the worlds: Rivers in old Scandinavian narratives of travels to the otherworld, G. Glazyrina (Russian Federation), Session 7I

Water means food means energy… circulation, land use and settlement transformation in Byzantine and medieval island systems in the Aegean Sea, M. Veikou (Aglantzia), Session 8F

Of wolves and sheep: Identifying the predator and the fleeced in the Coastal Highlands of Late Medieval Southern Anatolia, W. Ostasz (United Kingdom), Session 8F

Food production and consumption patterns in the transitional zones between different ethnic groups in the Byzantine world, A. Izdebski (Poland), Session 8F

Stories in circulation: Riverine miracles in the Early Middle Ages, E. Arnold (United States), Session 8L

Great to see the expansion of interest in the field!


Leeds IMC 2013

The International Medieval Congress (IMC) will be held in Leeds, England, 1-4 July 2013. Here is a list of sessions of special interest for medieval environmental historians.

Session 228: Hunting for Fun and Political Gain

  • Hunting and Pleasure, Hannele Klemettilä, University of Turku
  • Forbidden Pleasure or Pragmatics of Power?: Bishops’ Hunting in the Late Middle Ages, Ewa Wółkiewicz, Deutsches Historisches Institut, Warsaw
  • The ‘Delights’ of the Courtly Hunt, Ryan Judkins, University of Massachusetts

Session 733: Water in Medieval Society: Economic, Social, and Religious Implications, I

  • Water Culture: The Hydraulic Constructions of the Almoravid Period in North Africa and Al-Andalus, Maria Marcos Cobaleda, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS)
  • Water in Medieval Islamic Valencia (Spain): Hydraulic Structures and the Configuration of the Urban Area and Its Surroundings, Josefa Pascual Pacheco, Servicio de Investigación Arqueológica Municipal (SIAM), Valencia
  • The Urban Evolution of Medieval Córdoba through Its Water Supply during the Middle Ages, Guadalupe Pizarro Berengena, Universidad de Córdoba
  • The Hydraulic Systems in Medieval Islamic Córdoba: The Case of the Occidental Suburbs, Belén Vázquez Navajas, Universidad de Córdoba

Session 833: Water in Medieval Society: Economic, Social, and Religious Implications, II

  • Water in Everyday Life: From the Material to the Symbolic in Late Medieval Spain, Maria Isabel del Val Valdivieso and Olatz Villanueva Zubizarreta, Universidad de Valladolid
  • Sprinkling Water on the Corpse and the Tomb: The Rite of the Absolution of the Dead in the Middle Ages, Ana del Campo Gutiérrez, Yale University
  • Fountains, Gardens, and Pleasure: The Image and the Symbolic Meaning of Water in the Hispanic Courts at the End of the Middle Ages, Germán Gamero Igea and Diana Pelaz Flores, Universidad de Valladolid
  • The Configuration of Water and Gardens in Late Medieval Islamic Cordoba (Qurtuba), Rafael Blanco Guzman, Universidad de Córdoba

Session 1222: Animals and the Diversity of Pleasure, I

  • Fun in the Chicken Run: Two 14th-Century German Poultry Poems, Gabriele Klug, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Krems
  • ‘[…] copia autem piscium excedit fere omnia regna’: The Delight of Fishes in Medieval Hungary, Balázs Nagy, Central European University
  • When Pets Go Bad: Animal Bites and the Loss of Pleasure, Kathleen Walker-Meikle, University of York

Session 1322: Animals and the Diversity of Pleasure, II

  • Possessing Wild Beasts in Monastic Menageries: A Condemnable Effeminate Pleasure?, Thierry Buquet, Institut Français du Proche Orient, Beirut
  • Turning Heads: The Sartorial Use of Fur, Eva Fairnell, University of York
  • Animals of Pleasure: Touch, Function, and Materiality in Gothic Ivory Carvings, Naomi Speakman, British Museum

Session 1422: Ostriches: A Round Table Discussion

Sponsored by Medieval Animal Data Network. Participants include Thierry Buquet (Institut Français du Proche Orient, Beirut), Alice Choyke (Central European University, Budapest), Dragoş Gh. Năstăsoiu (Central European University, Budapest), and Mónica Ann Walker Vadillo (Universidad Complutense de Madrid).

Session 1620: Perceiving and Explaining Weather in the Middle Ages

  • Pleasure into Pain: Weather in the Old Norse Sagas, Bernadine McCreesh, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi
  • Explaining Weather and Natural Hazards to a Wider Public: Konrad of Megenberg’s Book of Nature (1349), Christian Rohr, Universität Bern
  • Late Medieval Weather Diaries in England, Kathleen Pribyl, University of Brighton