Bodies of water: negotiating urban and rural environment in early modern Europe
This workshop aims to bring together scholars from early modern social, cultural, and environmental history, as well as intellectual historians and historians of science and material culture, to talk about water across different settings and geopolitical contexts in Europe between 1450 and 1700. The focus will be on early modern communities, their social and political institutions, and how they interacted with water.
We are particularly interested in the fluid and ever-evolving system of water-related infrastructures put in place and constantly negotiated and redefined by states, institutions, and various actors, at urban, peri-urban and rural levels. For instance, we intend to explore how attempts to improve navigable channels to facilitate commercial exchanges often coexisted with conservative forces that resisted innovation. Access to drinking water is another suitable example to examine questions of resource management and control, and the way water distribution mirrored social differences and hierarchies. We are also interested in the negotiation between landlords and legislators about the legal status of thermal waters and the benefits and risks of public baths in towns. Overall, the general scope of the event is to reconstruct early modern ways of organising societies around water, establishing how these reflected models of sovereignty and forms of political participation to the res publica.
We are interested in papers that address questions such as:
- Who, if anyone, controlled water resources?
- How was water distributed, and did it mirror social differences and hierarchies?
- How did water infrastructures emerge from and were affected by conflicts between local and central authorities in the early modern period?
- To what extent did this process bear political dimensions?
- How did local communities across different geographical contexts contribute to reconfiguring these dynamics?
- Whether natural or artificial, waterways could also serve for the disposal of waste. How was this activity regulated, and by whom?
- Which was the status of public baths and spas? Could they be privately owned, or should they be considered a public asset?