Medieval sanitation

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

Blood on the butcher’s knife, In Blood Matters: Blood in European Literature and Thought, 1400-1700, ed. Bonnie Lander Johnson and Eleanor Decamp, 224-37 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018). The late medieval period has complex and contradictory developments in the thinking about animal blood from butchery. It is both a…

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Modernity and medieval muck

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…

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The medieval sense of smell, stench, and sanitation

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…

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The Metamorphosis of Ajax, jakes, and early modern urban sanitation

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…

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Local government responses to urban river pollution in late medieval England

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 were…

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