New book – ‘Madness’ in the Ancient World: Innate or Acquired? From Theoretical Concepts to Daily Life, ed. by Christian Laes, Irina Metzler, Brepols


This is the first book volume ever to study the ‘difficult’ subject of congenital, intellectual disability in the ancient world. The contributions cover the Ancient Near East, Egypt and the Graeco-Roman world, up to the late ancient period, China, the rabbinic tradition, Byzantium, the Islamic world, and the Middle Ages in the Latin West. The engaging and thought-provoking chapters combine careful textual analysis with attention to the material evidence and comparative perspectives, not the least those offered by disability history for recent periods in history.



1. Hidden in Plain Sight or Simply Untraceable? The Challenge of Studying Intellectual Disability in the Ancient World (Christian Laes)

2. ‘Mad Bones’: Tracing Mental Disability in the Bioarchaeological Record and its Possible Socio-Economic Implications in Past Societies (Chryssa Bourbou)
3. Dagger of the Mind: Macedonian Kings and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) (Alexandra F. Morris)
4. The Quest for Down Syndrome (and Other Symptoms) in Antiquity (Edgar Kellenberger)
5. Excluded from the Kingdom or Leading the Revolution? Môroi and the Question of Intellectual Disability in New Testament Writings (Dominika Kurek-Chomycz & Emma Swai)
6. Brain Injury and Intellectual Disabilities in Early and Medieval China: Two Case Studies (Olivia Milburn)
7. The Shoteh in Rabbinic Sources: Intellectual Disability or Mental Illness? (Lennart Lehmhaus)
8. Searching for Intellectual Disability in Byzantium (Fotis Vasileiou)
9. Fools in Arabic Medicine and Hospitals: Medical, Social and Economic Studies (Peter E. Pormann)
10. Incapacitas mentis: Mediaeval Musings on Congenital Fools (Irina Metzler)
11. Living Creatively with Intellectual Disabilities: A Father’s Observations as an Opportunity for Historical Research (Edgar Kellenberger)

General Index
Source Index

More on the editor’s website

Medievalists with Disabilities Roundtable IMC 2024 

Call for abstracts

After five successful roundtables bringing up issues around disability in Higher Education, we propose another roundtable for IMC 2024.

We invite abstracts for 5 minute talks for the roundtable. We understand disability in the broadest sense, incorporating visible and invisible impairments, chronic illness and mental health, to name but a few.

Topics might include:

· Your own circumstances in a HE institution

· Pinpointing a particular issue that needs addressing

· Highlighting an example of good practice in your own institution

· Issues of intersectionality: how disability might interact with other factors that have an impact on marginalized people e.g. gender, class, sexuality, and/or race

You can participate in a roundtable as well as presenting a paper, so please do consider submitting an abstract for this roundtable if you’re already planning to present. You don’t have to identify as disabled to participate, for example if you’d like to share an example of good practice, but priority will be given to disabled scholars.

Please submit a title for your talk as well as a brief summary (no more than 150 words) to Alex Lee (al6598@nyu.eduby 3 September 2023.

We are also seeking a chair for the session, so please let me know if you’d like that role.

You can watch last year’s video here:

Call for Papers Leeds IMC 2024: Understanding Miracles: Crisis Resolution and Community Impact

Miracles occurred in a variety of environments and for numerous reasons in the Middle Ages. This panel will seek to understand the impact of these miracles on individuals and their communities, whether that be personal healing, contributing to the power of a shrine, or helping to ratify a holy object. Miracles could also be used to resolve a crisis, whether of personal health, related to the natural world, or even in a more abstract sense relating to politics or conflict. 

Often defying neat categorisation, events designated as miraculous in the medieval source materials may be read through a variety of different lenses, including disability studies, history of medicine, political thought and environmental studies. This panel seeks to present papers from numerous perspectives to consider the different roles that miracles could play throughout the medieval world. 

Papers might address (but are not limited to):

-the role of disability and miracles

-miracles involving natural phenomena

-the resolution of crises through miracles

-miracles in relation to natural disasters and/or epidemic disease  

Please submit an abstract of c.300 words, a 100 word biographical statement and whether you would intend to present virtually or in person. Please email this to Alex Lee at and Sunny Harrison by 11 September.


Link to the google doc

New Book – Disability, Medicine, and Healing Discourse in Early Christianity, ed. by Susan R. Holman, Chris L. de Wet, Jonathan L. Zecher, Routledge

Susan R. Holman, Chris L. de Wet, Jonathan L. Zecher (Editors)

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Routledge; 1st edition (August 4, 2023)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 194 pages
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0367521004

Using contemporary theories drawn from health humanities, this volume analyses the nature and effects of disability, medicine, and health discourse in a variety of early Christian literature.

In recent years, the “medical turn” in early Christian studies has developed a robust literature around health, disability, and medicine, and the health humanities have made critical interventions in modern conversations around the aims of health and the nature of healthcare. Considering these developments, it has become clear that early Christian texts and ideas have much to offer modern conversations, and that these texts are illuminated using theoretical lenses drawn from modern medicine and public health. The chapters in this book explore different facets of early Christian engagement with medicine, either in itself or as metaphor and material for theological reflections on human impairment, restoration, and flourishing. Through its focus on late antique religious texts, the book raises questions around the social, rather than biological, aspects of illness and diminishment as a human experience, as well as the strategies by which that experience is navigated. The result is an innovative and timely intervention in the study of health and healthcare that bridges current divides between historical studies and contemporary issues.

Taken together, the book offers a prismatic conversation of perspectives on aspects of care at the heart of societal and individual “wellness” today, inviting readers to meet or revisit patristic texts as tracings across a map of embodied identity, dissonance, and corporal care. It is a fascinating resource for anyone working on ancient medicine and health, or the social worlds of early Christianity.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Discourses of Health between Late Antiquity and Postmodernity; 

Part One: Marking Bodies, Making Communities; 

2. Christ the Physician and his Deaf Followers: Medical Metaphors in the Letters of Ignatius of Antioch – Anna Rebecca Sølevag;

3. A Circumcising Mission to the Gentiles and Hazing Culture – Adam Booth;

4. Pain in Ancient Medicine and Literature, and Early Christianity: A Paradox of Insharability and Agency – Helen Rhee; 

Part Two: Defining Patients, Delimiting Communities; 

5. To Be, or Not to Be Sterile: that is a Question of Well-being in Byzantine Medical Discourse of the Sixth Century AD – Elisa Groff;

6. The Negotiation of Meaning in Late Antique Clinical Practice: Alexander of Tralles and “Natural Remedies” – Jonathan L. Zecher;

7. Medical Discourse, Identity Formation, and Otherness in Early Eastern Christianity – Chris L. de Wet; 

Part Three: Performing Health, Preserving Communities; 

8. Hagiography and “Mental Health” in Late Antique Monasticism – Paul Dilley;

9. Shaping Water: Public Health and the ‘Medicine of Mortality’ in Late Antiquity – Susan R. Holman; 


10. Intersecting Christian Antiquity and Modern Health Care – Brenda Llewellyn Ihssen.

More information on the editor’s website.

New Book – The Malleable Body: Surgeons, Artisans, and Amputees in Early Modern Germany, by Heidi Hausse, pub. by Manchester University

This book uses amputation and prostheses to tell a new story about medicine and embodied knowledge-making in early modern Europe. It draws on the writings of craft surgeons and learned physicians to follow the heated debates that arose from changing practices of removing limbs, uncovering tense moments in which decisions to operate were made. Importantly, it teases out surgeons’ ideas about the body embedded in their technical instructions.

This unique study also explores the material culture of mechanical hands that amputees commissioned locksmiths, clockmakers, and other artisans to create, revealing their roles in developing a new prosthetic technology. Over two centuries of surgical and artisanal interventions emerged a growing perception, fundamental to biomedicine today, that humans could alter the body – that it was malleable.


1 Writing the craft of surgery
2 Communities face the cold fire
3 Visions of the body
4 After the operation
5 Mechanical hands
6 Prosthetic technology on the move

More information on the editor’s website

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