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Published on Thursday, February 08, 2024


The aim of the workshop is to study the perception of hazards and the understanding of natural risk in ancient and medieval Europe. This multidisciplinary project will bring together the skills of archaeologists, geoarchaeologists, environmental historians and specialists in cartography and landscapes. The aim is to develop and cross-fertilise methodological approaches based on case studies.



Hazards are defined as natural phenomena likely to occur, and risk is defined as the exposure of societies to these hazards, measured by the seriousness of the issues at stake and the vulnerability of populations.

On a given site, based on textual, cartographic or archaeological sources, a specific analysis of the damage, destruction and pathologies of natural and man-made spaces that can occur following a sudden event (landslide, earthquake, flood, etc.), as well as an analysis of the progressive changes in the natural environment (deforestation, agrarian, river and maritime transformations, etc.), is likely to provide solid indicators of the way in which societies have understood and managed the risks they faced. The focus will be on how people perceive and represent risk, before, during and after its occurrence; how they perceive their vulnerability in the face of this risk, and how they deal with it, in discourse and in action.

This workshop is not intended to be exhaustive in historical terms, but rather to provide an opportunity to reflect collectively on a coherent and relevant methodology for these issues of risk and vulnerability, over and above the differences linked to geographical and chronological context. What sources should be used and how? On what time scale? On what spatial scale? What concepts should be used? What lessons can we learn from recent work on the history of disasters, risks and the environment, and how can we provide new perspectives?

This methodological update aims to take part of the epistemological current of environmental history, a very dynamic field of research for the ancient and medieval periods over the last thirty years, which has offered a major thematic, methodological and epistemological renewal (see Annales, 2022/1), by exploiting new types of archaeological, geoarchaeological and palaeoenvironmental data (Durand 2006, Valette & Carozza dir. 2019, Carcaud & Arnaud-Fassetta dir. 2015, Archaeomedes 1998, Archaedyn 2022), promoting interdisciplinarity and fruitful field studies. The project also draws on work on the environment and the notion of risk in the social sciences and contemporary history, which has raised the question of society's assumption of responsibility for risk (Beck 1986), hybrid objects (Latour 1991) and the environmental reflexivity of societies (Fressoz & Locher 2010). It also takes into account the history of disasters (Thély 2016, Labbé 2020) and forms of environmental narrative (Cronon 1992 & 2016).

For ancient times, the analysis of perceptions and representations of the environment is an essential methodological bias, which involves the critical study of literary, epigraphic and archaeological sources. Observation of developments and analysis of the built environment can help to measure not only the vulnerability of populations, but also their awareness of this vulnerability, through the specific or general responses they made. For the Middle Ages, the study of chronicles, literary and iconographic sources, and practices (i.e. management and administration) can reveal the way in which societies constructed the narrative of risk and disaster, and how they dealt with it (collectively or otherwise, legally, administratively, economically, etc.).

Because of the nature of the sources and the specific features of the early periods, when it is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain serial sources, our aim is to conduct a collective study based on individual case studies. It is mainly on the basis of these field studies that the methodological questions will be considered, in order to assess the potential of the subject and its possible aporias, to question the choice of sources and the way they are used, and to reflect on the concepts and questions put forward by recent research. To bring this work to fruition, a two-day workshop will be held on 7 and 8 October 2024 in Orléans (France). It will include presentations by a dozen or so participants (30-minute format), as well as collective work based on the case studies presented in the various presentations. This work will give rise to a publication reporting on all the work carried out during the workshop. The travel and day expenses of the participants will be covered by the research program.

For the workshop, we would like to highlight two issues that we feel are central: risk awareness on the one hand, and the environmental reflexivity of societies on the other, i.e. 'their complex, historically determined ways (...) of thinking about the consequences of human action on the environment' (Fressoz and Locher 2010). To explore these concepts further, we propose four lines of enquiry that could serve as a structure for the workshop:

  • Perceiving hazards: can we determine to what extent and how ancient societies perceived - or, on the contrary, had little or no perception of - the possible hazards they might face (presence or absence of observations, surveys and field measurements, etc.)?
  • Understanding and managing natural risks: how ancient societies have analyzed and understood natural risks? What causes were put forward? To what extent were the effects of human activity taken into account? Once a diagnosis had been made, how was the risk managed? Did it lead to decisions being taken or changes being made?   
  • Measuring vulnerability: how did the society in question measure its vulnerability to risk? On the basis of what criteria? How does it express this? Who are the players involved? And how can historians measure the vulnerability of these societies to risk?  
  • Remembering disasters: can we detect a memory of the disaster and through what sources? How is this memory maintained? What kind of narrative is constructed around the disaster?

Practical information

Dates: 7-8 October 2024

Venue: Hôtel Dupanloup, Orléans (France)

Hôtel Dupanloup - University of Orléans. 1 rue Dupanloup - 45000 ORLÉANS

Duration of each presentation: 30 minutes

Submission guidelines

Title and abstract due no later than 15th march 2024

Contact : Juliette.dumasy@univ-orleans.frAmelie.perrier@univ-orleans.fr

Selection Committee

  • Juliette Dumasy-Rabineau (MCF histoire médiévale U. Orléans, POLEN)
  • Amélie Perrier (MCF histoire ancienne U. Orléans, IRAMAT)
  • Didier Boisseuil (MCF HDR histoire médiévale, U. Tours, CETHIS)
  • Jean-Baptiste Rigot (MCF en géoarchéologie et archéomatique, U. Tours, CITERES)
  • Alexis Vrignon (MCF histoire contemporaine, U. Orléans, POLEN)


  • Hôtel Dupanloup, 1 rue Dupanloup
    Orléans, France (45000)

Event attendance modalities

Full on-site event


  • Friday, March 15, 2024

Attached files


  • histoire de l'environnement, risque, catastrophe, représentation, Europe médiévale, Grèce ancienne, Rome, archéologie, géoarchéologie, histoire ancienne, histoire médiévale, paysage, construction, cartographie


  • Amélie Perrier
    courriel : amelie [dot] perrier [at] univ-orleans [dot] fr
  • Juliette Dumasy-Rabineau
    courriel : juliette [dot] dumasy [at] univ-orleans [dot] fr

Information source

  • Juliette Dumasy-Rabineau
    courriel : juliette [dot] dumasy [at] univ-orleans [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Perception et appréhension du risque naturel dans l'Antiquité et au Moyen Âge », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, February 08, 2024, https://doi.org/10.58079/vs71

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