Category Archives: Impact

Women, Landscape, Environment – and Pests

TS writes: Just off to the 17th Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, Genders and Sexualities (@BerksConference) at Hofstra University, New York. The conference explicitly brings together history and feminist activism, and I am glad to see on the programme sessions that address women’s engagement with the environment.

Beyond Ecofeminism’ will explore ‘how women negotiate the relationship between space and identity through environmental justice organizing’, focusing on contemporary activism. ‘Invisible Death’ will use performance to draw attention to the biological destruction inherent in everyday pest control practices, and how women are implicated in these. Lindsay Garcia asks ‘Can we create a future that eliminates or minimizes animal death, creates healthy relationships and boundaries between pests and humans without reifying the oppressions of those who have been forced to live with pests due to circumstances out of their control?’

Both of these sessions are very present-centred, of course, and I will be asking whether their questions could be addressed through taking on board a longer chronological frame, bringing the knowledge of a ‘distant past’ to bear on present issues. This approach has been championed by Judith Bennett, whose own History Matters called for precisely this engagement between the medieval and the modern (although the environment did not feature greatly in that otherwise great book). Pests in the house and field, like weeds in the garden, are really only creatures ‘out of place’ – can pre-modern knowledge help us to cut down on chemical solutions in favour of working with nature? Watch this space….

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Infertility, garden intrigues and mystery manuscripts at Manorbier Castle

The HC team is pleased to announce publication of its first co-written article in the most recent edition of Transactions of the Honorable Society of Cymmrodorion. Here, the team explores the links between an understudied early fourteenth-century manuscript miscellany, the family of Gerald of Wales (d. 1223) and the medieval castle of Manorbier in Pembrokeshire, where Gerald was born in 1146.
We have argued that the manuscript, which contains a rich selection of medical and other texts, many to do with cures for infertility or the production of male offspring, was produced by and for some of Gerald’s descendants. We also suggest that it provides important new insights into the also little-known but very troubled history of the castle and its owners between 1200 and 1500.
Central to our discussion is a hitherto unrecognised garden space at the castle (below), formed accidentally when the two-storey chapel was added to the building in 1260. No doubt the ingredients for many of the recipes and ‘cures’ contained within the manuscript would have been grown here and in the surrounding lands and gardens outside the castle walls. 
The Garden Space at Manorbier Castle

The Garden Space at Manorbier Castle

However, these ‘cures’ seem to have been ineffectual. Although the evidence uncovered by the team suggests that the manuscript may have helped successive generations of the family to address a deepening inheritance crisis, that crisis erupted into a bitter dispute that ended in robbery, appropriation of the castle and its lands and, finally, murder.

Achievement prize for Hortus Conclusus postgraduate

The HC team offers many congratulations to Maria Zygogianni, postgraduate student on the HC project, who recently won the Ede and Ravenscroft Student Prize at Swansea University for her outstanding contribution to student life outside the usual academic studies. Although still in her first year of study for a PhD on enclosed gardens in medieval Romance talesMaria already has already co-organised a number of conferences and other research activities, being active both in the field of medieval studies and the Centre for the Study of Gender in Culture and Society (GENCAS). She has also had a paper on Chaucer’s ‘The Knight’s Tale’ accepted for the 2017 Leeds International Medieval Congress, for which she is again to be congratulated. The team is, of course, very proud of her achievements this year.

International Women’s Day

HC celebrates IWD with a new pilot project on women’s health and wellbeing – we’re currently looking for volunteers to participate in our ‘Time out in the garden’ study. We’ll only need an hour of your time, please email hortus[at]swansea.ac.uk for further details, with TIME OUT in the subject line.

Hortus project recognised for award!

LHM and TS write:

 

The Hortus Conclusus team were today celebrating winning an Impact Acceleration award, sponsored at Swansea by the EPSRC, to help us develop our goal of reconstructing a real, medieval, enclosed garden here in Wales, and assessing its therapeutic qualities.

Gardens as places of therapy are attracting increasing attention: a recent. A recent Gardener’s Question Time http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b068yd6m was broadcast from the walled garden in Auchincruive, Scotland. This is a garden devised as a therapeutic centre for ex-servicemen and women to help them with PDSD and other traumas.

As part of our award, we shall be measuring the health benefits of quiet, enclosed spaces, as well as writing applications for sponsorship of both the new garden and of a horticultural trainee to help us realise this vision. When the garden is built, we shall be using it for medieval-themed events and performances, as well as opening it up as a contemplative space. Follow the category ‘Impact’ to see how we progress!

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