Roaming the Rural. Shepherds and Pastoralists as Cross-Cultural Agents in the Mediterranean Basin (15th–16th centuries)

Roaming the Rural. Shepherds and Pastoralists as Cross-Cultural Agents in the Mediterranean Basin (15th–16th centuries)

Fabian Kümmeler, Institute of East European History, University of Vienna; Dana-Silvia Caciur, Nicolae Iorga Institute of History, Bucharest
EHESS, 54 Bd Raspail, Paris, 75006
Vom - Bis
10.09.2019 - 13.09.2019
Kümmeler, Fabian

Deadline for paper proposals: 27 January 2019

Call for Papers
Rural History 2019 Panel “Roaming the Rural: Shepherds and Pastoralists as Cross-Cultural Agents in the Mediterranean Basin (15th–16th centuries)”

Although pastoral transhumance was “one of the most distinctive characteristics of the Mediterranean world” (Braudel), notably the herding practices and the sociocultural life of shepherds and pastoralists and their role as (cross-) cultural agents in the late medieval Mediterranean are still largely unexplored. When for example addressing the shepherd communities in 15th- and 16th-century Southeast Europe, it’s first and foremost the transhumant herding communities of Vlachs and Morlachs that inspire the idea of Balkan pastoralism to this day. These herders pastured their herds on meadows in the Dinaric Alps in summer, while seasonally migrating to warmer coastal areas in winter. In the Venetian realm at the Eastern Adriatic coast, they rented pastures in karst areas, entered into business relations with locals and, from the late 15th century onwards, also settled in the hinterland of Dalmatian cities. Apart from the transhumant Vlach and Morlach communities, however, also a sedentary local form of animal husbandry existed along the coast and on the islands of Venetian Dalmatia. While historiography often instrumentalised the former for narratives of ethnic and national origins, the latter has been studied only rather secondarily either by legal historians analysing communal statutes or by economic historians adopting quantifying approaches to outline the economic impact of animal husbandry.

This panel aims at overcoming the boundaries of national historiographies and disciplinary traditions by comprehensively studying and discussing new insights into both transhumant and sedentary shepherd communities in the late medieval Mediterranean Basin. Its focus centres on scrutinizing different forms of pastoral communities, defined by socio-cultural practices and legal status, and the herders’ interaction with and perception by state administration and rural society. Whereas shepherds, based upon their seminomadic lifestyle, were usually understood as marginal communities, this panel emphasizes their significant role in interconnecting rural communities from different regions and cultural and political contexts. As economic agents, even if perceived as rather closed communities, shepherds had to be acquainted not only with local laws, markets rules, prices and herding customs, but – particularly in the case of transhumant pastoralism – often also with varying political systems, borders and tax regimes as well as with different cultural contexts and environmental conditions. The mobility of flocks, the permanent need for fresh grass and water, the need for protection and settlement during winter and the need for markets for ovine products transformed the shepherds’ world into a fascinating but yet understudied field of cross-cultural interaction.

This panel invites papers studying herding practices and the sociocultural life of shepherds as (cross-) cultural agents in the Mediterranean Basin between 1400 and 1600. We particularly welcome contributions focusing on the social interaction of transhumant flock herding communities with sedentary rural society, conflicts of shepherds with (religious and/or secular) authorities, and/or pastoral customs and laws on shepherding in the light of political changes and economic challenges. Promoting a broader comparative approach, we are moreover looking forward to discussing case studies and comparing perspectives from all parts of the Mediterranean; from the Iberian, Italian and Balkan Peninsulas, just as from the Greek realm, the Levant and other North African and South European regions.

A paper proposal must include a title, the full name and affiliation of author and co-author(s), and a short abstract (up to 300 words) introducing the topic, its scope and approach. Please submit your paper proposal, by referring to the session’s title and number 223867, via this link:

The final deadline for paper proposals is January 27, 2019 (Sunday).

Should you have further questions, please contact the panel organisers: Fabian Kümmeler ( and Dana-Silvia Caciur (



Fabian Kümmeler

University of Vienna