I am interested in how medieval Europeans dealt with sanitation problems in the growing urban areas. My primary focus has been waste handling and disposal choices and their effects on streets, empty plots, and waterbodies in the cities and towns.
Medieval cities –
Not as dirty as we think.
Muck and filth cleaned up.
(my dissertation haiku posted on Dissertation Haiku)
Blood on the butcher’s knife, In Blood Matters: Blood in European Literature and Thought, 1400-1700, ed. Bonnie Lander Johnson and Eleanor Decamp (forthcoming, submitted for review at press).
The late medieval period has complex and contradictory developments in the thinking about animal blood from butchery. It is both a potential … Continue reading
Nature + Culture 9 (2014): 225-237
This article challenges the common presentation of the medieval street as a mud- and muck-filled cesspit. Using the television episode “Medieval London” of the Filthy Cities series aired by BBC Two in 2011 as a spring board, I discuss the realities of medieval waste management … Continue reading
In Les cinq sens de la ville du Moyen Âge à nos jours, ed. Ulrike Krampl, Robert Beck and Emmanuelle Retaillaud-Bajac (Tours: Presses Universitaires François-Rabelais, 2013), 301-313.
Although linking smell and sanitation has been previously discussed by scholars as an early modern development, this article argues that controlling smells from human … Continue reading
Arcadia: Online Explorations in European Environmental History, 2012.
Access the article online in Arcadia (free)
Early English Studies, 2010, online.
This article examines Sir John Harington’s A New Discourse of a Stale Subject, Called The Metamorphosis of Ajax through the lens of urban environmental history, examining the everyday context of Harington’s discourse. It argues that although Harington may have used the work for the political and social … Continue reading
in Living cities: An anthology in urban environmental history, ed. Matthias Legnér and Sven Lilja (Stockholm: Forskningsrådet Formas, 2010), 34–55.
Living in an urban setting comes with a price. Waste disposal in these crowded settings often becomes a problem. In the late medieval towns of York and Coventry, the town councils … Continue reading
Water History 2.1 (2010), 35-52.
This article examines the local responses to medieval urban river pollution in three leading English towns—Coventry, Norwich, and York—during the late fourteenth through sixteenth centuries. The case studies reveal the extent to which local governments became involved in river upkeep. Interventions by the town governments … Continue reading
Journal of Urban History 36.3 (2010), 300-315.
This article examines how providing one basic city service—sanitation—influenced civic governmental structures from 1400 to 1600 in two of England’s largest provincial cities, Norwich and Coventry, and how those changes meshed with concepts of good rule. Although sanitation services were neither the … Continue reading
Technology and Culture 49.3 (2008), 547-567.
This article investigates the workings of sanitation technologies in late medieval English and Scandinavian cities through both written and archeological evidence. It defines the roles of city corporations and individuals in the areas of street maintenance and waste management between the years 1350 and 1550. … Continue reading
PhD Dissertation, University of Virginia, 2008, directed by W. B. Carlson.
This study investigates the workings of late medieval sanitation technologies, particularly how solutions to sanitation issues were constructed as a relationship between the city government and urban inhabitants. It argues that medieval sanitation developed through the reciprocal interaction between … Continue reading