Personal profile

Research interests

I am now finishing a project funded by the NWO VIDI (800,000 euro), which goes by the title "Positively Shocking! The Redistributive Impact of Mass Mortality through Epidemic Diseases and Violent Conflict in Early Modern Northwest Europe".

This project has made four substantial contributions – many of which will slowly be visible in published work over the next year or so in various papers, one special issue The History of the Family: Special Issue: Household, Family, and Community Responses to the Direct Costs of Epidemics (taylorandfrancis.com), and a new book entitled Epidemic Disease and Society in the Premodern Low Countries: Inequality, Community, and Gender Disaster Studies | Amsterdam University Press (aup.nl).

First, in contrast to a view in the literature that incrementally increasing economic inequality in the premodern period was a “naturally reinforcing process” with a logic of its own, we suggest that in many contexts – especially peasant-based rural communities – there was an intrinsic lifecycle model of “de-accumulation”, and hence, an inherent limitation on the increase in inequality.

Second, rather than the “levelling effect” of epidemics posited in some of the literature, we suggest that the most interesting part of the epidemic-redistribution link is not on how epidemics managed to shift and transfer resources within communities, but how (certain members of) communities managed to prevent substantial redistribution from taking place. Epidemics provoked resistance to change down many different lines.

Third, we make a strong claim for the importance of the “direct” economic costs of epidemics – which contrary to the redistribution literature – were often inegalitarian as they bore most heavily on the disadvantaged within communities.

Fourth, rather than epidemics as a vehicle for massive structural change – sometimes seen as “shocks” causing rupture points within societies and economies – we make a case for these outbreaks to be seen as effective “windows” through which aspects of vulnerability can be observed which do not necessarily come to the fore during “normal times”.

Over my career, I have published widely across many different disciplines of history and related fields – I have more than 40 international peer-reviewed articles and chapters and have 3 books (with a 4th on the way) including an open access synthesis of all the most up-to-date thinking on historical disasters with CUP library.oapen.org/bitstream/id/93f950ad-464d-4002-9aaa-3e1a3b3fe823/Disasters_and_History.pdf and an open access study on how epidemics have been visualized across the long term of cinematic history with Routledge library.oapen.org/bitstream/id/6c39960d-e611-4418-a697-1b6e6b1a2140/9781000540765.pdf. In recognition of my contribution to historical research, I am a fellow of the Royal Historical Society (UK).

I am happy to hear from any prospective students (BA/MA/PhD) interested in the broad domain of environmental hazards, famines and diseases in the past, and their implications for social and economic development over the long term.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Pre-Industrial Societies and Strategies for the Exploitation of Resources: A Theoretical Framework for Understanding Why Some Societies Are Resilient and Some Settlements Are Vulnerable to Crisis , Utrecht University

Award Date: 31 Aug 2012

Master, A Comparative Study of the Impact of Social Structure and Tenure on Nucleated and Dispersed Settlement in 8 Cambridgeshire Parishes, 1275-1340, University of Cambridge

Award Date: 1 Oct 2009

Bachelor, History, University of York

Award Date: 31 Jul 2006

Keywords

  • DH Netherlands (The Low Countries)
  • D111 Medieval History
  • DG Italy

ERMeCHS research clusters

  • HI - Heritage & Identity

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