CfP: The multilingual city, c. 1250 – c. 1800

Call for papers, deadline 20 July 2021

More info:


Cities are multilingual, but histories of the premodern city too rarely think in detail about the workings of language in urban communities and environments. At the same time, the social history of language has rarely taken into account the spatial dimension of multilingualism in the past. As a centre of political, cultural, and intellectual life, as well as a site of cultural exchange, the city has long been a place of linguistic encounter and of language change, as historical sociolinguists have shown. This workshop will bring historians together to consider multilingualism as a social fact, and to explore the relationship between multilingualism and the development of the premodern city. 

The period under discussion is one which witnessed the rise of European cities alongside the emergence of modern vernacular languages. A time of major changes in faith, media, and communication, this was also a period of new global encounters. Historians must be open to the diversity of languages and varieties which characterised the period, considering how language reflected regional, national, or social differences, how oral and written languages related to one another, and the roles of sign language, gesture, and other forms of communication. 

Abstracts are invited for an online workshop to be held in autumn 2021 which will explore the multilingual city in historical perspective. Participants will discuss how linguistic difference shaped the experience of urban life in the period from around 1250 to 1800. They will go beyond describing the multilingual environments of the premodern city, and offer more systematic perspectives on language and power in the city, as well as on language and agency in material and social space, with particular attention to gender.

Topics of interest might include:

  • Language difference and relations of power, status, gender, and race
  • Mobilities and migrant communities in the multilingual city
  • Multilingual urban spaces, from households and workshops to schools and streets
  • Interpreting and linguistic mediation in urban contexts
  • Language work in the premodern city
  • Governing the multilingual city
  • Multilingual writing practices
  • Non-literary translation practices
  • The oral and aural encounter in the multilingual city
  • Multilingual urban histories in colonial and imperial contexts

Submission guidelines

Papers are invited in English, French, and German. Please send abstracts of 300 words/2000 characters and a short CV (max 2 pages) to Prof Ulrike Krampl ( and Dr John Gallagher (

by the 20th of July 2021.

Workshop: 5th November 2021 (online)


Dr. John Gallagher (Leeds, UK) and Prof. Ulrike Krampl (Tours, France)