Digital Colloquium – “The Impact of Climate and Weather on the Premodern Provision of Food and Water: New Historical Perspectives on Resilience and Vulnerability”

16 February 2022, 13:00-17:00 Register for Zoom access (no attendance fee required

Food and water are essential goods for human and animal life. The provision of these goods to society has always been prone to climatic and environmental shocks, such as drought, floods, and extreme weather circumstances. Recent studies have made clear that premodern societies were, however, not inherently vulnerable to such shocks, and that they did not necessarily lead to major shortages and further disaster. Instead, urban and rural societies in the Middle Ages and early modern period could develop methods and strategies to enhance the resilience of food and water provision, thus averting disaster. However, resilience and vulnerability remain complex concepts when studying societies in the past. Multiple, often interacting levels of resilience can be denoted in the form of deliberate strategies deployed by certain individuals and collectives, as a ‘disposition’ or habitus of specific groups and individuals, or material and immaterial resources of wealth and information across different layers of society. In this colloquium, several researchers will approach the topic of climate and weather-induced stress on water and food provision by looking at the interaction of these levels of resilience and vulnerability through a number of case studies related to both rural and urban societies. Doing so, this colloquium aims to contribute to recent historical debates regarding the resilience and vulnerability of premodern societies, as well as the question how the development differed across multiple levels of society.

Organised as part of the N.W. Posthumus Research Network Societies in Context: Interactions between humans and rural urban environments

Registration and Programme :  Research School for Economic and Social History | Online Colloquium ‘The Impact of Climate and Weather on the Premodern Provision of Food and Water’ (


Session 1: 13:00-13:50

Opening words

Albane Lesouple (Université de Bourgogne/Universiteit Antwerpen)

Food from Somewhere? Urban Households, Access to Land and Alternative Food Entitlements in the Late Medieval City  

Break: 13:50-14:00

Session 2: 14:00-15:15

Lena Walschap (KU Leuven/Universiteit Antwerpen)

Seas of Risk and Resilience. Peasant fishing on the late medieval English coasts as a coping strategy for climate-induced hazards

Arnoud Jensen (Universiteit Antwerpen)

From farmland into sea. Urban institutions in late medieval Ghent dealing with inundation during the Flemish Civil War

Break: 15:15-15:30

Session 3: 15:30-17:00

Angela Isoldi (Radboud Universiteit)

Coping with drought in Mamluk Cairo: the case of 1399

Dániel Moerman (VU Amsterdam)

Coping with drought in premodern urban hydrosocial systems: the case of Deventer’s well communities, 1500-1900

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