The Creative Unit has run out in April 2017.


The research field “Soziabilität/Groups” explores different social groupings like family, monastic and urban communities. Questions of main interest are: How did the category of dis/ability structure these communities? How did dis/ability contribute to the construction of identities within these groupings?

For the project “The Poorhouse of Bremen? The Medieval and Early Modern Population of Bremen-Steffenstadt. A Comparative Archaeological-Anthropological Approach” (Uta Halle), an archaeological field-school will be conducted as part of an archaeological excavation on the churchyard of the former church of St. Stephan, led by a team of archaeologists and biological anthropologists. In contrast to the old city centre of Bremen, the younger district of “Steffenstadt” was characterised by a dense building structure and an increasing population. It was, nevertheless, Bremen’s poorest district. In between 1700 and 1912, the poorhouse of Bremen, which contained working rooms, bedrooms, and refectories for about 200-300 old and indigent people, was located here. Their dead, as well as – apparently – many of those who died during an epidemic, were buried on the churchyard of St. Stephan. Therefore, various finds of human remains are to be expected, which could enable us to establish an anthropological survey of the population. According to textual sources concerning this district, we can expect a much higher amount of degenerative changes within the osteoarcheological material than in other districts of Bremen, due to the population’s harder living and working conditions. The results of this excavation will be compared to those of the Swantje Krause’s project “Anthropological-Osteological Analysis of Sickness and Impairment in the Population of Medieval Bremen”. The excavation of the churchyard of St. Stephan will be the first one to apply new analytical methods on the study of a population’s parasitic contamination in Bremen.

In her doctoral research study “Peculiarities on Medieval Burial Grounds”, Cathrin Hähn (following her master thesis on “Monstrosities on Merovingian Burial Grounds – Evidence of Integration and Social Exclusion of People with Deviant Bodies in Grave Finds”, Marburg 2010) examines possible interrelations between corporeal difference and peculiar burials in the Early Middle Ages. Here, the focus lies on archaeological evidence as well. If possible, textual sources will be consulted in complementary analysis.

For his dissertation project “Disabled and Chronically Ill People in the Early Middle Ages – Between Charity and Social Exclusion” Klaus Peter Horn explores attitudes and behaviour of Early Medieval social communities according to miracle stories. In these texts, family, friends, members of farmsteads and villages feature prominently in interrelation towards those who might have been considered to be of ‘lesser value’, for example, due to being only partially able to work because of congenital or acquired impairments.

Jan Ulrich Büttner examines “Impairment within the Context of Monastic Norms and regulae”: Applying the regula Benedicti as a guiding example, numerous convents were obliged to the cura infirmorum, the care of their sick members. Simultaneously, the status of being sick could also prove precarious as to the underlying suspicion of feigning disease in order to acquire amenities. The study focuses on the ambiguous attitudes concerning sick people during the time of monastic reforms from the 9th to the 11th centuries.

Alexander Grimm’s dissertation project “Childless Marriages of the Princely Nobility in 15th and 16th Century Germany” examines childlessness as a phenomenon with multiple implications for individual situations, familial role structures and dynastic and political developments. Considering the importance of offspring for the nobility, individual and collective strategies to achieve legitimate children, to promote fertility, to interpret and to cope with ‘generative failure’ are taken into account, as well as alternatives to being childless. The project combines recent approaches of gender history, family history, body history and history of daily life with classical approaches of social and cultural history in order to detect self concepts and external perceptions, likely scopes of action and typical behavior patterns within this specific social group.

„Family, Power and the Body. Physical and Mental (In)Ability among the High Nobility with Special Regard to the Dukes of Braunschweig-Lüneburg during the 15th and 16th Centuries“. Jana Sonntag analyses letters and (personal) documents with regard to the effects of physical, mental or psychological impairment of noble women and men on family relations, social careers, dynastic policies and the preservation of sovereignty. For instance a sovereign suffering from a mental disorder who could not prove capable of the daily affairs of ruling, even attacked his family and servants (and refused to be sedated), posed a serious problem. But a ruling couple’s childlessness could also be perceived as a serious deficiency as well.


Out soon: Dis/ability History der Vormoderne. Ein Handbuch / Premodern Dis/ability History. A Companion, eds. Cordula Nolte, Bianca Frohne, Uta Halle, Sonja Kerth (Affalterbach: Didymos, 2017).

Disability History der Vormoderne More

Workshop “Perspectives of Dis/ability History in an Interdisciplinary and International Context”, 6th – 7th February 2016 (Delmenhorst, Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg) More

Workshop “Images of Dis/ability”. Disease, Disability & Medicine in Medieval Europe, 9th Annual Meeting, Bremen, 4th-6th Dec. 2015. More

New article: Swantje Köbsell: LeibEigenschaften - eine barrierefreie Ausstellung über den Umgang mit Beeinträchtigungen in der Vormoderne, in: Handbuch Behindertenrechtskonvention (2015). About our barrier-free exhibition on dis/ability history in Bremen, 2012.

New book: Bianca Frohne: Leben mit »kranckhait« Der gebrechliche Körper in der häuslichen Überlieferung des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts Überlegungen zu einer Disability History der Vormoderne (Studien und Texte zur Geistes- und Sozialgeschichte des Mittelalters 9), Affalterbach 2014. More

Interdisziplinäres Ringseminar an der Universität Bremen: “Dis/ability History. Ein neuer Blick auf die Geschichte”. Wintersemester 2014/15, Freitags von 10 – 12 Uhr, GW2, Raum B 2880. More

2014 Conference on Disease, Disability and Medicine in Medieval Europe: Infection and Long-Term Sickness. University of Nottingham, 6th/7th December 2014. More

Graduate Workshop on Medieval Disability, University of Nottingham, 5th December 2014. More

Workshop: “Dis/ability History in Dialogue with Literary Studies and Language History” hosted by PD Dr. Sonja Kerth and Dr. Heiko Hiltmann (University of Bremen). Gästehaus am Teerhof, October 10th/11th 2014. More

Workshop:„Dis/ability: Archaeology & Anthropology - Finds and Contexts“
hosted by Prof. Dr. Uta Halle (University of Bremen), Dr. Christina Lee (University of Nottingham), PD Dr. habil. Wolf-Rüdiger Teegen (LMU Munich). Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Delmenhorst, June 13th/14th, 2014. More

New: Phänomene der “Behinderung” im Alltag. Bausteine zu einer Disability History der Vormoderne, ed. Cordula Nolte (Studien und Texte zur Geistes- und Sozialgeschichte des Mittelalters 8) (Affalterbach: Didymos, 2013). More

Workshop „Dis/ability and Law in Pre-Modern Societies.
Intersections of Legal History and Dis/ability History“
hosted by Prof. Dr. Cordula Nolte (University of Bremen) and Prof. Dr. Wendy Turner (Georgia Regents University, Augusta). University of Bremen, January 31st/February 1st, 2014. More

Workshop „Dis/ability History and Medicine. Terminology – Concepts – Models” hosted by Prof. Dr. Cordula Nolte (University of Bremen) and Prof. Dr. Dr. Ortrun Riha (University of Leipzig). Gästehaus Teerhof, September 16th/17th, 2013. More