May 11, 2020 - May 12, 2020

Spatial Humanities and Urban Experiences During the Long Fifteenth Century

Spatial humanities are developing fast at the moment, especially as a result of the innovative possibilities offered by digital GIS-mappings and GPS-navigation tools that are now available for historical analysis, as well as for public engagement activities. This international expert meeting intends to bring together specialists from different disciplines (urban history, historical mappings, spatial theory, digital spatial analysis) in order to discuss possibilities, challenges, and next steps for spatial humanities that are concerned with late-medieval and early modern urban history and urban spaces.

In qualitative-oriented historical research, place and geographical space are increasingly becoming important categories of analysis as well. Here place and space are no longer considered as inert backgrounds against which history unfolds, or as elements shaping in a deterministic way human culture, but the study of the interactions of human culture with the natural environment or the mutual shaping of constructed urban townscape and human behaviour has advanced the understanding of historical developments considerably. Seminal examples are, for instance the micro-ecologies of the Mediterranean as studied by Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell (The corrupting sea: a study of Mediterranean history, 2000). In addition, Henri Lefebvre’s (The Production of Space, 1991) and Edward Soja’s (Thirdspace, 1996) ideas concerning “representational spaces” and “thirdspaces” have been refined for the study of conceptual spaces in historical urban environments: Marc Boone and Martha Howell, eds., The Power of Space in late Medieval and Early Modern Europe, 2013; Sarah Hamilton and Andrew Spicer, eds., Defining the Holy: Sacred Space in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, 2005.

GIS and other digital mapping applications have proven to be effective additions to spatial historical research, but, as David J. Bodenhamer has critically observed:

“a mismatch exists, in short, between the positivist epistemology of GIS and the reflexive and recursive approaches favoured by historians who wrestle continually with ambiguous, uncertain, and imprecise evidence and who seek multivalent answers to their questions”

(David J. Bodenhamer, “The spatial humanities: space, time and place in the new digital age”, Toni Weller ed., History in the Digital Age, 2013:30).

The contributions to the expert meeting will engage with questions how GIS and other digital tools can be used to push further the advancement of the historical study of spatial social practices, of the cultural construction of meaningful urban spaces, or of emotional and spiritual attachments to places and spaces. Another focal point will be the possibilities of digital spatial humanities for the study of historical mobilities, of navigating urban spaces by humans, objects, and (religious) information. Finally, historical mappings of urban space will be discussed as important sources of information about historical experiences of space, as well as possibilities to translate these into modern (digital) spatial experiences.

The presentations will be in English and in French. Publication of the contributions in an open access e-journal is in preparation.

The meeting will consist of four sessions in one full day and one morning:

  1. Critical GIS and new forms of digital spatial analysis for historians. Digital studies of historical layers of the built urban environment, critical use of digital and GIS technology, reshaping technology, storytelling.
  2. Historical urban mappings and translations of historical spatial experiences. Historical mappings as sources for now lost urban structures, historical spatial experiences, conceptual spaces. Possibilities of the use of historical mappings for (qualitative) digital analysis. The (digital) translation of historical spatial experiences for modern audiences.
  3. Urban history from the Loire Valley: possibilities and challenges for spatial research and digital applications
  4. Urban experiences and creating effective spatial outreach activities. Presentation and first results of the HERA project “PUblic REnaissance: Urban Cultures of Public Space between Early Modern Europe and the Present (PURE)”; The Hidden Florence/Deventer app”.


Confirmed speakers


Centre d’Etudes Supérieures de la Renaissance (CESR) :
59, Rue Néricault Destouches - 37000 TOURS - FR

The conference venue is unique. Located right next to the basilica of St Martin in the old city centre of Tours, the Centre d'Études Supérieures de la Renaissance (Centre for Advanced Studies in the Renaissance) is a teaching and research institution which welcomes students and researchers seeking initial or supplementary instruction in all aspects of the Renaissance. The Centre was initially constituted in 1956 on the basis of a library and a documentary archive, supplemented by a collection of photographs and databases. It is now a venue for multi-disciplinary instruction, which, in association with the various Faculties of the University, has responsibility for teaching and research in History, History of Art, Literature, Languages, Musicology, and Philosophy. It currently leads a large research programme dedicated to the cultural regional heritage (Intelligence des Patrimoines). As a research centre it brings together fifty or so researchers committed to the investigation of the "civilization of the Renaissance" from Petrarch to Descartes. Participants will be welcomed in this exceptional surrounding blending Middle Age and Renaissance cultures and will have the opportunity to discover French cuisine and wines.



(Including two lunches and the coffee breaks)

Public institutions 75 EUR
Students & PhD Scholars 40 EUR
Social dinner 45 EUR

Partners of the event