NEH Summer Seminar 2009 Logo
Disease in the Middle Ages Logo
Seminar Details
Dear Colleague letter←click here to read the "Dear Colleague" letter
    which provides an overview of the Seminar's
    objectives and structure, application process,
    accommodation information, London details,
    etc. (or right-click on this image to download
    this PDF document to your computer).
Schedule and Syllabus document← click here for the "Schedule and Syllabus"
    document (current as of 26-Nov-2008)
    which contains the full seminar schedule,
    a list of required texts, and a General
    Bibliography on Medieval Medicine (or
    right-click to download the PDF document).
For your convenience, selected portions from the "Dear Colleague" letter (edited for the web) appear below:

Application Procedure and Deadline:

Part 1 – is submitted directly to NEH: Go to the following website at NEH and fill out the online initial application form: This part is for the NEH’s own internal records and is the necessary first step of processing your file.

Part 2 – The remaining application materials are sent to us directly via e-mail MedievalSeminar2009 'at' (change 'at' to @ before sending) or snail-mail address provided (Please see the Dear Colleague letter).

Receipt Deadline: March 2, 2009
Notification: April 1, 2009

Your completed application should include the following four (4) parts, with the letters of recommendation being sent separately:

  1. NEH Cover sheet, found at: Complete this online. (It is sent electronically to the NEH, thus fulfilling Part 1 of the application.) Then, before closing the window, print it out or scan it into a PDF document to include with the rest of the application you send to us.
  2. A C.V. (not exceeding five pages)
  3. An essay of 1,000 words or fewer (roughly four pages) which covers the following:
    • Your reasons for applying for the seminar
    • What goals you wish to target through the Seminar, including any individual research projects
    • What relationship the Seminar may have to your teaching
    • Any personal and academic details you deem pertinent
    • Your facility with medieval languages (e.g., Latin, Old High German, Arabic, etc.) and your experience with paleography
  4. Two letters of recommendation from colleagues familiar with your professional accomplishments, as well as your ability to contribute to and benefit from the Seminar. If you have participated in an earlier NEH institute or seminar, a letter from the director or lead scholar(s) would be useful. Recommendation letters should be sent directly to the Seminar directors via e-mail MedievalSeminar2009 'at' (change 'at' to @ before sending) or snail-mail at the address provided in the Dear Colleague letter; if sent by e-mail, please ask your referee to put “NEH Seminar letter of recommendation” in the subject line.

The complete application package should be submitted directly to the Directors of the Seminar – not to the National Endowment for the Humanities (send only the NEH cover sheet to the Endowment). Include the requested information below, either as hardcopy sent via snail-mail or as e-mail attachments in MS Word or PDF versions. Ignore instructions at the NEH website about sending multiple hard copies; we will scan in all hardcopy submissions and circulate them as PDFs to the evaluation committee. Please label each attachment with your last name and file description, such as “Smith CV.doc.” The complete application packet includes four (4) parts; please see the "Dear Colleague" letter for all details.

Selection Criteria:

A selection committee will read and evaluate all properly completed applications to ensure selection of the most promising applicants and to identify a small number of alternates. The selection committee includes the two Seminar directors and an external expert in medieval medical history. While recent participants are eligible to apply, selection committees are charged with giving primary consideration to applicants who have not participated in an NEH-supported seminar or institute in the last three years (2006, 2007, or 2008). Recent participation in NEH’s Landmarks of American History Program does not negatively affect eligibility or competitiveness.

The most important consideration in the selection of participants is the likelihood that an applicant will benefit professionally and contribute meaningfully to the objectives of the Seminar. This is determined by committee members from the conjunction of several factors, including the following:

  • quality and commitment as a scholar of the humanities, social sciences or natural sciences
  • intellectual interests, both generally and as they relate to the Seminar
  • special perspectives, skills, or experiences that would contribute to the Seminar
  • the likelihood that the Seminar would enhance the applicant's scholarship and/or teaching
  • commitment to participate fully in the formal and informal life of the Seminar

Your completed application should be postmarked no later than March 2, 2009.

Seminar Schedule and Participant Contributions:

The Seminar will meet in London at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College, London (183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE) from Monday, July 6 through Friday, August 7, 2009. (You will be able to move into your accommodations on Sunday, July 5—or even Saturday, July 4 with prior arrangement—and stay until Saturday, August 8.) The Seminar will convene three mornings a week for five weeks to discuss common readings and examine historiographic patterns of disease and disability. Usually, our meetings will be Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, though we may adjust the schedule the second week of the Seminar (July 14-16) if participants plan to attend the International Medieval Congress in Leeds. You will be asked to prepare readings in advance for common discussion, which will be supplemented by presentations by the instructors and guest lecturers using various textual, visual, and other materials. In addition to this common material, we would like to invite you to present preliminary findings of your own research to the rest of the Seminar. The schedule of these presentations will be determined according to individual topics of research. It is hoped that by the time of your presentation, you will have completed some portion of your on-going research project that can be circulated in advance to the rest of the Seminar for common discussion.

Afternoons will normally be left free to allow you time to prepare the Seminar readings and to explore your own research topics. During the first three weeks, on one afternoon a week there will be an optional session on research methods to benefit participants without prior training in Medical History but whose ongoing work may benefit from its methodologies. These sessions will focus specifically on (1) digital tools for researching the History of Medicine online, (2) the special demands of paleography for reading medical texts (this session will take place in the Manuscripts Room at the British Library and be conducted by Manuscripts Librarian, Laura Nuvoloni), and (3) special interpretative issues in analyzing medical illustrations.

During the first three weeks, we have also scheduled one “field trip” per week. The first field trip is intended to introduce you to ancient Roman health maintenance, now preserved as both ancient ruins and modern practice in the city of Bath. Balneotherapy was intrinsic both to the medieval humoral (mainstream) therapy and remains central to contemporary and modern alternative therapies. Our visit will be enhanced by readings from ancient and medieval sources on the culture of balneotherapy. In the second week, the field trip will take us to the Chelsea Physic Garden in London. This will introduce you to the botanical basis on which nearly all medieval medical practice—learned or popular—was based. Topics for discussion will include Mediterranean vs. northern flora; the influx of “exotic” materia medica via the Islamic world; and questions of how these materials were actually made into therapeutic products. Finally, in the third week, we will conduct a trip to the Centre for Human Bioarchaeology at the Museum of London (MoL). Led by Dr. Anne Grauer with assistance from William White at the MoL, we will examine there the remains from the East Smithfield Black Death Cemetery, a mass gravesite excavated in 1986-88 that was used during the first wave of the plague pandemic in the 14th century and which contains the remains of at least 558 individuals. The objective of this trip is to allow you to better understand the practices of retrieval of the material remains of medieval people and the ways paleopathological scientists go about making their interpretations.

Fridays, as well as several Thursdays, will be free days when you can devote the full day to your own work, whether in London, other research centers in the U.K., or on the Continent. The Seminar Directors will be available throughout the Seminar to assist in formulating and executing these projects.

Applicant Profile:

The ideal participant for this Seminar will be a faculty-member at a university or college in the humanities, social sciences or natural sciences with an interest in research on medieval medicine. The Seminar is designed for those with no prior background in medical history. Similarly, it does not presuppose any advanced training in the biological sciences. As the Seminar will not focus on one geographic area, scholars working on any aspect of medieval Europe or the Mediterranean, and in any discipline, are encouraged to apply. Also, because our understanding of Europe will be expanded by thinking comparatively, scholars with expertise in other premodern cultures (e.g., pre-Columbian Americas or China) will be welcome, as will scholars in the sciences who wish to be introduced to the methods of humanistic investigation of disease and disability. The archeologist with experience in studying the Plague of Athens, who nevertheless now wishes to study the Black Death; the literary scholar who has investigated the role of the body in Arthurian texts but is trying to understand the import of medicine on her research; and the microbiologist who has been investigating the epidemiology of leprosy, but who wants to understand its interface with the social history of physicians and the Church as well as the new meanings of leprosy in disability history would all be ideal candidates. All readings in the seminar will be in English. But because a large portion of the medieval medical corpus has never been edited or translated, a comfortable command of medieval Latin and/or any medieval vernacular language (including Arabic or Hebrew), as well as paleography and codicology, will greatly facilitate participants’ ability to engage deeply with the collective work of the Seminar and their own research projects.