The Body in the City, 1100-1800

‘The Body in the City, 1100-1800’ investigates the complex, diverse, and multi-layered realities and understandings of ‘the body’ in medieval and early modern societies. It brings together outstanding scholars from the University of London (Birkbeck College) and Monash, along with members of the Prato Consortium of Medieval and Renaissance Studies (Amsterdam, Arizona, Catholic University of America, Edinburgh, Queen Mary, University of London, Toronto, Warwick, Prato State Archives). The research program encompasses various disciplines – art, architecture, literature, medicine and health sciences, politics, religion, gender studies, environmental studies – and focuses on archival, textual, visual and environmental materials. The time-period covered, 1100-1800, corresponds to a crucial period for the development of European urban centres and cultures.

Visit the Events page for details on our upcoming events, including the ‘Representing Infirmities’ conference in Prato this december.

The Body in the City is a Faculty of Arts Focus Program Initiative, one of nine high performing research areas that have been selected for increased investment to grow research capacity and impact.

For information on our full program of events and research activities visit the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in the History Department at Monash University, which is the Focus Program hub.

More about ‘The Body and the City’ Concept

The idea of the ‘Body and the City’ came out of a meeting of the Prato Consortium in late 2014, and the desire to bolster collective research capacity in the field of medieval, renaissance and early modern studies. In response to the call for a central concept around which future capacity could be built, members responded with different yet interrelated possibilities and the result is ‘The Body in the City, 1100-1800.’

The Program aims to develop histories of the body by examining real and metaphorical bodies in the urban context and investigates their inter-relationship in the late medieval into the early modern periods.  

The Program is shaped around a book series that promises to develop a set of diverse yet coherent studies in dialogue with each other. The general editors John Henderson and Peter Howard, leading scholars in the field, will draw into the proposed volumes scholars at the cutting edge of their respective sub-fields.

Emphasizing interdisciplinary approaches and purposefully setting aside traditional periodization, the proposed series intends to feature collections of articles emerging from special conferences as well as single-author studies emerging from original research.

The book series and all Program activities are shaped around the following themes and approaches:

  • Space and architecture
  • Urban soundscapes, sightscapes and bodyscapes
  • Economic, political and social functions of cities
  • Social history of ideas
  • Ideas in practice
  • The public sphere
  • Metaphor and material culture
  • Objects and sites of devotion and memory
  • Confessional conflict and religious minorities in cities
  • Gender, sexuality and the premodern body
  • Disease prevention and remedy
  • Public health and global health
  • Sustainability and the management of natural resources
  • Healthscaping the natural and physical environment
  • Urban-rural relations
  • Histories of violence
  • Uses of digital humanities to explore urban contexts

In addition to publications, these themes are expanded through the full program of activities we host each year, including seminars, graduate workshops, public lectures and conferences, delivered by local and international scholars at Monash Melbourne and Prato, and leading international conferences.