Call for Papers – Water in towns in North-West Europe in the early Middle Ages

Water in towns in North-West Europe in the early Middle Ages: an agent of urban spatial transformation
(4th−12th centuries)

Conference organized by the University of Tours (France)
21-23 October 2021
UMR 7324 CITERES − Laboratoire Archéologie et Territoires

Call for papers

Towns or, rather, urban societies maintained multiple and complex relations with water in the past. In its different forms, stagnant or dynamic, water was a prerequisite for human settlement. Most towns are located on a watercourse used for various purposes (food provision, craft production, energy, defence, transport…). Medieval towns were places where water was omnipresent and this constitutes a subject of choice for researchers, as shown by the many studies published on the subject (eg Leguay 2002, Guillerme 1983). Among all the symposia organised up till now on water in the medieval period, most papers have concerned the end of the period, for which written sources are more numerous and detailed. At the same time, at conferences and in publications devoted to towns in the early Middle Ages, the role of water has not been treated in much depth (Hodges and Hobley 1988), even if there are some well-known examples from this period, such as the harbour of Dorestad (Van Es and Verwers 1980) or Douai (Louis, Demolon and Louis-Vanbauce 1990). In 2004, publication of a symposium on rivers and marshes lent new impetus to approaches to human interaction with rivers and management of wetlands, including urban examples such as Tours (Burnouf and Leveau 2004).

Starting from the premise that a variety of towns existed during the early Middle Ages (towns of Roman origin, or growing up around a monastery, a defensive site or an economic hub), we propose to assess the role of water in these towns at three progressive levels: i) that of different users within a town, ii) at the level of the town as a whole, and iii) in the creation of urban networks. Our purpose is to draw together the most recent research, highlighting this subject through archaeological discoveries as well as critical analysis of written sources.

Communication or poster proposals should be submitted by 1 March 2021. Proposals should provide a title, a summary of 300 words in French or English and the institutional affiliation of the author. They must be filed on the website of the conference :

It is planned to publish the proceedings of this conference.

The registration cost will be €20. Attendance is free of charge for students but they need to register. A buffet is organised for lunch for the first two days of the symposium (€15 for attendance). On the third day, a visit of the city of Vendôme will be offered to all the participants of the symposium.

For further information, please visit the website of the conference on

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