Call for Papers: ESSHC 2018 Panel - Medieval Cities Managing Food Crises

RHN 66/2017 | Call

Organisers: Tim Soens and Stef Espeel, University of Antwerp, Belgium

4-7 April 2018, Belfast, N-Ireland

Deadline for proposals: 25 April 2017

Call for Papers:
Rural History Panel at the ESSHC 2018 in Belfast
Shock Cities: Medieval Cities Managing Food Crises

Since Amartya Sen’s Noble Price winning Poverty and Famine (1981) a lot of historical literature has dealt with the issue of famine and food shortage as either problems of food availability (lack of food) or problems of food allocation (the failure of food to reach the people who need it). Recent advances in climate history ones again turned attention towards the production side of the story, and climate fluctuations inducing harvest failures beyond the absorptive capacity of either markets or states (see Campbell, 2016). With its history of secular demographic growth and urban expansion, eventually aborted by a period of profound contraction and crisis, medieval Europe has always fascinated scholars interested in the interaction of climate, agriculture and hunger, resulting in exciting clashes between population-, power- , market- and climate-centered narratives.

This session aims to approach food crises from an urban perspective, bringing together papers which question the way cities and various groups in the city dealt with food shortages. In particular we aim to question

(1) The frequency of food shortages in medieval cities: can we observe periods and contexts of increased frequency or intensity of food crises, and how certain are these chronologies?

(2) The vulnerability of urban populations for food crises: why were some cities more vulnerable to food shortages than others? And why were some groups in urban society more vulnerable to food crises than others?

(3) The management of food crises: which policies were developed to counteract food shortages and by whom? How where these policies motivated and what was there impact? Do we see regional differences, contrasting for instance a greater interventionism on behalf of the urban authorities in the Mediterranean context (continuing Roman Annonae policies) with more passive reactions in the North Sea Area?

(4) Town-Countryside relationships: when and how did cities realize a privileged access to food in times of food shortages, reversing the traditional advantages of the countryside in times of famine? And did the access to long-distance food-trades mitigate the impact of food shortages or exacerbate the problem?

(5) Household strategies: which strategies did individual urban households develop to cope with food shortages? Such strategies can vary from reliance on solidarity mechanisms, access to alternative sources of food supply, food storage etc.

Interested? Please send a short abstract (200-500 words) to before 25th of April (the deadline for submission of the session through the conference website is 1st of May).

ESSHC 2018 Website: