Image from Hieronymus Bock, Kreutterbuch, courtesy of the The Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library.

The body in early modernity is oftentimes described as porous, malleable and in flux. From wherever we look, it seems that early modern people’s bodies were under significant pressure from outward influences, as well as from their own ambitions to control them. Using approaches like embodiment, performance, sensory and cognitive history, history of emotions, material culture and history of medicine, scholars have investigated various forms of corporeal experience. This workshop brings together these interlinked fields in order to reflect upon the lived-in body in early modern Europe.

We will engage with the body within a wide range of contexts, from the profound relationships between the macro- and microcosms, to everyday experience like work, eating and sex. We will consider the body as willed and cultivated, but also highlight the body’s vulnerabilities and propensity to sometimes do unforeseen things.


Organizers: Karin Sennefelt & Anton Runesson
The conference will be held on Zoom. All are welcome, though registration is necessary.

For registration, please visit

Conference program

All times given in CEST, Central European summer time.

16 June 2021

12.30—13.00 Welcome and introduction

13.00—14.30 Key note Maren Lorenz, Ruhr Universität, Bochum, Body history revisited. Some thoughts about conceptual and theoretical challenges
Chair: Karin Sennefelt

14.30—15.00 Coffee/tea break

15.00—17.00 Session 1: The body in the course of life
Chair: Anton Runesson

Sarah Fox, University of Manchester
Experiencing the Birthing Body in Eighteenth-century England

Holly Fletcher, University of Sussex
The Material Body in Marriage: Co-Producing Bodyweight and Shape in Early Modern Germany

Maja Bondestam, Uppsala University
Experiencing Age and the Maturing Body in Early Modern Sweden

17.00—18.00 Coffee/tea break

18.00—20.00 Session 2: On the borders of death
Chair: Mari Eyice

Benedikt Brunner, Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte, Mainz
Dying bodies and the corpse. The deathbed as a place for the negotiation and experience of difference in seventeenth and early eighteenth-century Europe

Isabel Casteels, Leuven University
Battles over Bodies: Executions and audiences during the Dutch Revolt

Vera Lind, Northern Illinois University
The Corpse is Alive! The 18th-Century Invention of the Liminal Space Between the Living and Dead Body

17 June 2021

14.00—15.30 Session 3: Subtle experiences

Chair: Mari Eyice

Vera Faβhauer, Goethe University of Frankfurt
"Acquisition, Verification and Application of Body Knowledge in Johann Christian Senckenberg's Medical Diary"

Anton Runesson, Stockholm University
Awakening the conscience in early modern Sweden

15.30—16.30 Coffee/tea break

16.30—18.00 Session 4: Bodily ability
Chair: Anton Runesson

Isabelle Schuerch, Universität Bern
Moving two bodies Together. Late Medieval Reflections on Human and Equine Co-movements

Mari Eyice, Stockholm University
Experiences of disability in early modern Sweden

18.00—18.30 Coffee/tea break

18.30—20.30 Session 5: The body and religious experience
Chair: Karin Sennefelt

Raisa Toivo, Tampere University
Prayer and the body in religious experience in early modern Finland

Emese Bálint, Columbia University
Miraculous Bodies of Anabaptist Martyrs

Thomas C. Devaney, University of Rochester
"A noise that seems as if it would shake the world apart": The emotional and bodily experience of sound in early modern pilgrimage in Spain

18 June 2021

13.00—15.00 Session 6: Practices of diagnosis
Chair: Anton Runesson

Kateryna Pasichnyk, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
"To reassure us he announced that he took a sick one 'on his hands'": Social norms and medical practice in the Don region of the eighteenth-century Russian empire

Viktoria von Hoffmann, Fund for Scientific Research (F.R.S-FNRS)
Touch, Mixtures, and the Complexional Body in Italian Renaissance Medicine

Phil Withington, University of Sheffield
Intoxicants, addiction and the humoral body

15.00—15.30 Coffee/tea break

15.30—17.30 Session 7: Senses and identity
Chair: Karin Sennefelt

Andrew Kettler, University of South Carolina
Triangle Trading on the Pungency of Race: African Bodies and the European Nose

Sebestian Kroupa, King’s College London
Markers of Difference? Indigenous Tattooing in the Early Colonial Philippines

Marieke Hendriksen, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam.
"Be careful of the Tastes and You will Grow Old" Taste, Health and Identity in the Dutch Golden Age

17.30—18.30 Coffee/tea break

18.30—20.00 Key note Craig Koslofsky, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, “What Can Tattooed Servants and Slaves Tell Us about Experiencing the Material Body in the Early Modern World?”
Chair: Karin Sennefelt

20.00 Final comments