Spatial Humanities and Urban Experiences During the Long Fifteenth Century

May 11, 2020
 Virtual meeting



The conference will be replaced by a virtual meeting. The instructions to connect and join the meeting will be given upon registration.

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:

  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


Monday May 11th 2020

  • 14:00    Official Opening
    Dr Margriet Hoogvliet & Prof. Chiara Lastraioli
    Sophie Gabillet
  • 14:10    Prof. Keith Lilley - Digital Mappings of the Medieval City
  • 14:30    Prof. Felicitas Schmieder - Mapping Frankfurt c. 1350: Baldemar of Petterweil’s recording of space in medieval urban-ecclesiastical sources
  • 14:50    Prof. Boris Bove - Questioning the aristocratic neighbourhoods (Paris, 14th century) : the contributions of GIS
  • 15:10    Prof. David J. Bodenhamer - From Historical GIS to Deep Mapping: Toward a Robust Spatial Humanities
  • 15:40    Prof. Fabrizio Nevola - Virtual (Un)Certainties: Reconstructing Historical Contexts for Florentine Renaissance Paintings
  • 16:00    Break
  • 16:30    Prof. David Rivaud & Dr Damien Vurpillot - Saint-Saturnin Total Data
  • 16:50    Prof. Sabrina Corbellini - Discovering the Hidden Cities: Reconstructing Public Space in Late Medieval Deventer
  • 17:10    Dr Suzan Folkerts - Telling Stories. Where Academia and the Cultural Heritage Sector Meet 
  • 17:30    Dr Margriet Hoogvliet - How to Avoid the Data Graveyard: Moving Towards Dynamic Mappings
  • 17:50    Discussion & questions for Dr Paul Fermon / Conclusions and closing remarks
    Online paper presentation: Dr Paul Fermon - Cartographies urbaines et rituels civiques. Approche politique de la question du “plan de ville” pendant le long XVe siècle - Click here to play video

Partners of the event