Janna Coomans

Winner Research Prize 2020

Dissertation
In Pursuit of a Healthy City: sanitation and common good in the Late Medieval Low Countries.

Supervisor: Prof. dr. Guy Geltner
Nomination: University of Amsterdam, Faculty of Humanities

Report by the selection committee

The author analyzes all aspects of public health in a comparison between Ghent, Leiden and Deventer in the late medieval Netherlands on the spatial, governance and network level. Extensive archival research has been carried out for this comparison, which is a considerable task for this period. The author convincingly shows that many anti-plague measures previously seen as ad hoc and ill-advised were actually based on pre-existing theories and many were in place before the plague was present in the cities. The jury compliments the strong and clear theoretical framework. In addition, they found the writing style very pleasant which contributes to the high readability for non-specialists. Despite the many different types of sources that are used, the book is still comprehensible.

The subject of the dissertation is very important at the present time and proves the relevance of historical research for contemporary issues. This type of research can serve as a source for dealing with epidemics today, but it can also be taken into account, for example, in the design of cities in combination with health care concerns. A beautiful book according to the jury.