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History and Memory

The joint research agenda of historians in Amsterdam and Lund focuses on

  • the development of spa institutions (well, kurpark, grand hotel, casino) and their geographical spread across Europe, including the emergence of “off-springs” such as the seaside resort and the climatic spa
  • the consequences of this spread in terms of political and cultural geographies (centre-periphery relations), developments and emulations of the model over time, and the competition among the spas for European customers
  • the social opening of the spas, in close relation to the development of societal changes and technical innovations enhancing spatial and social mobility. 

With the help of selected case studies, both Principal investigators will zoom in on the function of the spas as seasonal transnational public spaces and stages, detail the principles of in- or exclusion and the negotiations of the issues at the spas. In particular we explore the tensions between the medicalization of the spas versus the role entertainment, sociability and consumption played. In the longue durée, we analyse the influence of the welfare state, public health discourses and new ideologies on the perception of bodies and body politics in the spas and resorts.

Established resorts on the borders of emerging nation states in Western Europe, such as Spa and Aix–les-Bains will serve as primary case studies for PI Amsterdam, as will the Russian (Caucasian) spas. PI Lund compares the history of Baden-Baden, Ramlösa in Sweden and the German seaside resort of Norderney against the background of broad international research on spas in Europe. A postdoctoral researcher attached to PI Amsterdam in years two and three of the project will conduct additional research in Central European and Italian spas. 

PI Amsterdam and PI Lund work collaboratively on the above catalogue of research questions, to cover spa developments from the “golden age” through the twentieth century until the very recent past in a joint volume on European Spa History. The book also explores how European spas might use this history and its transnational dimensions for purposes of self-conception and marketing. It asks how European spas, in a period of re-nationalisation and globalisation, contribute to a new appreciation and revival of their European heritage.