Public Health and the Pre-Modern City: A Research Agenda
By Guy Geltner
History Compass, Vol. 10:3 (2012)
Abstract: How and to what extent did pre-modern people go about creating healthier environments? Can we reasonably talk about public health when it comes to earlier urban societies? This essay briefly surveys a few tenacious misconceptions about preventative (as opposed to curative) health care in pre-modern cities, and then proceeds to review a budding scholarly literature that explores how urban dwellers, organizations, and governments, especially in medieval Europe and the Near East, identified and addressed the particular health risks attendant upon their milieus. The article concludes by pointing out several fruitful directions in which this emerging historical field can develop.