NEH Summer Seminar 2012
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imgSeminar Schedule and Participant Contributions

Click here to download the Syllabus

Download a pdf of the Seminar Syllabus, which contains the full Seminar schedule, a list of required texts, and a general bibliography on medieval medicine.

The Seminar will meet in London at the Wellcome Library (183 Euston Road) from Monday, June 25 through Friday, July 27, 2012. The Seminar will convene three mornings a week for five weeks to discuss common readings and examine historiographic patterns of studying disease and disability. Usually, our meetings will be Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, though we may adjust the schedule the third week of the Seminar (July 9-12) if participants plan to attend the International Medieval Congress in Leeds. You will be asked to prepare readings in advance for common discussion, which will be supplemented by presentations by the instructors and guest lecturers using various textual, visual, and other materials. In addition to this common material, we would like to invite you to present preliminary findings of your own research to the rest of the Seminar. The schedule of these presentations will be determined according to individual topics of research. It is hoped that by the time of your presentation, you will have completed some portion of your on-going research project that can be circulated in advance to the other participants for common discussion.

Afternoons will normally be left free to allow you time to prepare the Seminar readings and to explore your own research topics at the Wellcome Library or other research institutions nearby. During Weeks 1-4 on one afternoon a week, there will be an optional session on research methods to benefit participants without prior training in medical history or paleopathology but whose ongoing work may benefit from the methodologies of these disciplines. These sessions will focus specifically on (1) digital tools for researching the History of Medicine online; (2) the special demands of paleography for reading medical texts (this session will take place in the Manuscripts Room at the British Library); (3) special interpretative issues in analyzing medical illustrations; and (4) ways in which researchers can utilize published human skeletal data.

During Weeks 1, 2, and 4, we have also a scheduled field trip. The first field trip is intended to introduce you to ancient Roman health maintenance, now preserved as both ancient ruins and modern practice in the city of Bath. Balneotherapy was intrinsic both to the medieval humoral (mainstream) therapy in all three cultures of the Mediterranean basin (Christian, Jewish, and Muslim) and remains central to modern alternative therapies. The ancient Romans invested heavily in the design and building of bathhouses, and the Bath Museum allows us to explore directly the architectural and technological sophistication of this ancient system of health maintenance. Our visit will be enhanced by readings from ancient and medieval sources on the culture of balneotherapy. In the second week, the field trip will take us to the Chelsea Physic Garden in London. This will introduce you to the botanical basis for nearly all—learned and popular—medieval medical practice. Topics for discussion will include Mediterranean vs. northern flora; the influx of “exotic” materia medica via the Islamic world; and the ways these materials were actually made into therapeutic products. Finally, in the fourth week, we will visit the Centre for Human Bioarchaeology at the Museum of London (MoL). Led by Dr. Scott with assistance from Jelena Bekvalac at the MoL, we will examine the human remains from the East Smithfield Black Death Cemetery, a mass gravesite excavated in 1986-88 that was used during the first wave of the plague pandemic in the fourteenth century and which contained the remains of at least 558 individuals. This gravesite was the source for the ancient DNA recently extracted and used for reconstruction of the full genome sequence of the strain of Yersinia pestis that, in all probability, caused the Black Death. The objective of this trip is to allow you to better understand the practices of retrieval of the material remains of medieval people and the ways paleopathological and microbiological scientists go about making their interpretations.

Fridays, as well as several Thursdays, will be free days when you can devote the full day to your own work, whether in London, other research centers in the UK, or on the Continent. The Seminar Directors will be available throughout the Seminar to assist in formulating and executing these projects.

Click here to view Participant Stipend and Housing details.

Like all Summer Seminars, Institutes, and Workshops, ours will be governed by the NEH's Principles of Civility.

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