Dr Jane Stevens Crawshaw

Deputy Head for Strategy and Development

School of Education, Humanities and Languages


Jane Stevens Crawshaw received her MA (hons) from the University of Edinburgh and an MPhil and PhD from the University of Cambridge.  She is the recipient of a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellowship (2012-17) as well as other awards from the British Academy, Wellcome Trust and Society for Renaissance Studies.

She is a Renaissance Italian historian with broad research interests in social, medical and environmental History.  Her current project explores the impact of developing ideas about 'cleanliness' on the management of urban and natural environments of Genoa and Venice.  Before this, she developed a holistic and contextualised institutional study of plague hospitals, which were first established in fifteenth-century Venice.  

Teaching and supervision


Modules taught


Dr Stevens Crawshaw contributes to the Foundation Year in Humanities ('Being Human: love, sex and death') as well as the following modules for History degrees:

  • Europe and the World  [Year 1]: Examines the interaction of Europe with the wider world and the religious, imperial and political struggles that underpinned the rise of European empires.
  • Conflict and Belief in the Early Modern World [Year 2]: Examines how religious beliefs led to violence and massacres, and how early modern societies came to accept diversity.
  • Life in Renaissance Italy [Year 3]: Travel back to cities at the epicentre of the Renaissance: Rome, Naples, Venice and more.  We will explore what life was like across the social spectrum at this time of political, intellectual and cultural change.I also supervise Independent Study and Dissertation projects every year on early modern European topics.


Dr Stevens Crawshaw has supervised Masters Dissertations on early modern European social and architectural history and would welcome applications from students interested in early modern Italian social, medical and environmental history.

  • Renaissances: Space and Society in Europe 1400-1600: Step back into the cities of Renaissance Europe.  We will explore the spaces in which people lived, worked, worshipped and fought in order to access the rich and turbulent history of Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Dr Stevens Crawshaw's teaching spans the early modern period (c.1450-1800) in Europe.  Her interest in the social and physical history of the period leads her to explore how ordinary people experienced a world of environmental change, epidemic diseases, religious wars and global exploration. 

She received a teaching award for learning outside the classroom (joint with Dr Alysa Levene) from the Higher Education Academy History subject centre in recognition of our work to engage students with museum objects. In 2018-19, she was shortlisted for a Brookes Union Teaching Award in the category of ‘Diversifying the Curriculum’.

She has also contributed Masters classes to the Architecture and Health Programme at Clemson University, South Carolina and will be recording videos for MASSOLIT on the History of Medicine which will be used by school-level learners in July 2021.   


Dr Stevens Crawshaw would welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students interested in early modern social, medical or environmental histories.

She has acted as internal and external examiner for a number of PhD theses on early modern History.

Research Students

Name Thesis title Completed
Alex Banister Designing the Domestic: Women’s Writing on Architecture and Design in Interwar Britain Active
Christopher Milroy The development of forensic medicine as an academic discipline in the UK: An examination of its teaching and literature to 1914 Active


The social, medical and environmental history of early modern Italy.

Research interests

Dr Stevens Crawshaw is fascinated by the relationship between people and the places in which they live.  She loves exploring architecture and urban settings, past and present.  Her research interests are broad and include material culture, urban planning, concepts of cleanliness and public health, the perceptions and treatment of 'marginal' social groups and the relationship between urban space and the environment in early modern Europe, particularly Italy.

Current research projects

'Cleaning Up Renaissance Italy: environment, space and society in Venice and Genoa'.  This project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust Early Career Research Fellowship between 2012 and 2017, broadens our understanding of Renaissance public health.  It demonstrates the ways in which ideas about cleanliness and health were expressed in the social policies, religious language and cultural production of the period.  It also moves beyond the walls of Renaissance cities to trace the ways in which interventions in the environment were considered inseparable from urban public health measures.  A focus on the important ports of Venice and Genoa enables these ideas to be explored in the context of cities which were also the centres of territorial states.  The book of this project, 'Cleaning Up Renaissance Italy: Environmental Ideals and Urban Practice in Genoa and Venice' is under contract with Oxford University Press.  

History of Quarantine

Dr Stevens Crawshaw's first research project explored the development of permanent, preventative quarantine structures against the plague in fifteenth-century Venice.  She has spoken about this for a variety of podcasts, including The History of Now and the European University Institute project, Experiencing Epidemics.  She has also written and contributed to discussions of the history of quarantine including History and Policythe New York Times and BBC Bitesize.  She has contributed to BBC Radio 3 (Free Thinking) and 4 (Beyond Belief).  In 2016, she was short-listed for the AHRC/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinkers scheme.

Research grants and awards

Dr Stevens Crawshaw has received a number of significant awards and grants for her research including an Early Career Research Fellowship, Leverhulme Trust (£79,080, 2012-17); Conference Grant, Wellcome Trust (£5,888, 2015) with additional funding from the Society for the Social History of Medicine and Economic History Society; Small Research Grant, British Academy (£6,813, 2012); Publication award (2011) and award for independent research (£3,000 2008-9), Gladys Krieble Delmas foundation. 



  • Cleaning Up Renaissance Italy


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Professional information

Memberships of professional bodies

I am a fellow of the Royal Historical Society (2014) and the Higher Education Academy (2010) and hold a Postgraduate Certificate in the Teaching of Higher Education.

I sit on the Advisory Board for the International Network for the History of Hospitals.

I have been invited to give a number of prestigious public lectures, including ‘Cleaning Up Titian’s Venice’ at the National Galleries of Scotland as part of the programme of events surrounding the 'Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting' exhibition (2014); Griselda Steevens Memorial Lecture – Worth Library, Dublin (May 2018): ‘The State of the Environment: Public Health and Technology in Renaissance Genoa’; Venice in Peril (June 2020): ‘If the walls could talk: the lazzaretti of Venice, early modern plague and quarantine’ and America-Italy Society (February 2021): lecture as part of Venetian trilogy (past, present and future).   I gave a special lecture as part of the National Research Foundation of Korea's 'Disease and Nation' project hosted by the History Department of Ewha Women's University in Seoul.  The lecture took place on  Friday 19 November and was entitled 'Preventing the plague: public health, quarantine and the state in early modern Venice'. 


I regularly present and respond to papers at academic conferences and seminars.  In 2021-22 I will be part of the Mellon-funded Sawyer Seminar ‘Transmission, Containment, Transformation: A Comparative Approach to Architecture and Contagion in Early Modern Cities’ at Penn State University, USA.  In 2021 I was respondent at the Renaissance Society of America conference for a panel on 'Institutional health: crossovers in early modern environments' (organised by Danielle Abdon and Maggie Bell.  At the meeting in Dublin in 2022 I have co-organised a panel with Marie-Louise Leonard (Ca' Foscari University) on 'Health, space and cultures of prevention in early modern Italy'.  

Previous seminar and conference papers include:

  • December 2021 'Environmental bodies and health in early modern Italy', Ca'Foscari University, Venice
  • October 2021 'Wastelands: space, reuse and the urban body in early modern Italy', University of Edinburgh's Medieval and Renaissance Seminar
  • June 2019 'Broken bridges and crowded calle: policing urban ideals and realities in early modern Venice', University of Amsterdam
  • May 2019 'Weeping trees and self-sacrificing fish: environments and miracles in early modern Venice and Chios', Venetian Seminar, Oxford Brookes
  • April 2017 'Tears of Chios: tracing medical cultures in the early modern Eastern Mediterranean' at the conference entitled 'Medicine, Environment and Health in the Eastern Mediterranean World, 1400-1750', Christ's College, Cambridge
  • March 2017 'The State of the Environment: Public Health and Technology in Renaissance Genoa', Early Science and Medicine Seminar, University of Cambridge
  • February 2017 'Telling stories about the environment in early modern Italy', European History Seminar 1500-1800, Institute of Historical Research
  • February 2017 'Cleaning the streets: the changing place of prostitution and piety in Renaissance Genoa', Early Modern Catholicism Seminar, University of Oxford
  • March 2015 'Cleaning up Renaissance ports: technology and the environment in Venice and Genoa' European Architectural History Network panel on Renaissance technologies and the built environment, Renaissance Society of America conference, Berlin
  • September 2014 'Healthy water: environmental channels in Renaissance Genoa', Port City Lives Conference, Liverpool
  • August 2014 'The spaces and places of early modern quarantine', Quarantine: History, Heritage, Place Conference, Sydney
  • June 2014 'Protecting the Port in Renaissance Genoa', Practicing Public Health in Premodern Europe Workshop, Villa i Tatti, Florence
  • May 2014  'Cleaning Up Titian's Venice', lecture to accompany the exhibition 'Titian and the Golden Age of Venetian Painting', National Galleries of Scotland
  • March 2012 'From books to beaks: doctors' fight against the plague in early modern Italy', Edinburgh College of Physicians.
  • September 2011 'The Renaissance invention of Quarantine', Fifteenth century conference on 'Society in an age of plague', University of East Anglia, Norwich.
  • June 2011 'Cleansing the body and cleansing the soul: the Counter-Reformation Plague Hospital as a space of conversion', Conversion Narratives in the Early Modern World, University of York.
  • April 2011 Commentator for 'Trust, risk and globalisation between water and land' at ENIUGH Third European Congress on World and Global History, LSE London.
  • April 2011 'Corrupting the body and corrupting the soul in early modern Venice: the case of Mr and Mrs Plague Hospital', International Network for the History of Hospitals Conference, Lisbon and Evora.
  • March 2011 '"From a distance it looks like a castle": contagion, communities and confinement in early modern Venice', 'The disease within: confinement in Europe, 1400-1800', Oxford Brookes University.
  • July 2010 'Marketing state secrets in Venice during the plague' as part of co-organised (forthcoming) panel 'Marketing (in) the Renaissance city: Venice and beyond', Society for Renaissance Studies bi-annual conference, York.
  • April 2010 Panel Organiser 'Terraferma ties: tracing the early modern Venetian state' and speaker on 'State secrets: public health for the plague on the Venetian terraferma' at the Renaissance Society of America Annual Conference, Venice.
  • October 2009 'Plague hospitals, charity and cure in early modern Venice',City and hospital in the European West (13th-17th centuries) international symposium, Lleida.
  • April 2009 'Islands of isolation? The lazaretti of sixteenth-century Venice', International Network for the History of Hospitals conference, Barcelona.
  • March 2008 'Disease and defence on the terraferma after Cambrai', Venice and the League of Cambrai conference, St John's College, Oxford
  • September 2007 '"The blood through the veines of a man's body": epidemic disease and the environment in sixteenth-century Venice', European Association for the History of Medicine and Health Conference, London
  • July 2007 'What about the rats? Reconsidering plague in a sixteenth-century context', Varieties of Cultural History conference, Aberdeen
  • May 2007 'Islands and isolation in sixteenth-century Venice', Venetian seminar, Edinburgh


In 2017 I became the first Editorial Consultant for the ‘Medicine’ section of Early European Books Online – a ProQuest database of full-colour, high resolution facsimile copies of rare and hard-to-access printed subjects in Latin and European vernaculars. 

Further details

She contributes blogs to the website of the Society for Renaissance Studies: www.rensoc.org.uk.

Other experience

Panellist and Chair for Equality Challenge Unit Athena SWAN scheme 2018-2020; Member of the Council of the Society for Renaissance Studies (2009-19) and Honorary Secretary (2013-18) including Editorial Board for Renaissance Studies; 2018 Chair of the Biennial Book Prize Committee for the Society for Renaissance Studies; Executive Board Member for the International Network for the History of Hospitals (2010-).


Before coming to Oxford Brookes, Jane was the Rubinstein Postdoctoral Research Fellow for the Society for Renaissance Studies. Prior to this she was a Teaching Fellow in Early Modern History at the University of St Andrews (2007-8). She completed her MPhil (2003-4) and PhD (2004-8) at the University of Cambridge (Downing College) and her MA (1999-2003) at the University of Edinburgh.

She has been the recipient of an early career scholarship from the Istituto Datini in Prato and an award for independent research from the Gladys Krieble Delmas foundation.  She was awarded a Small Research Grant from the British Academy in 2011 and held an Early Career Research Fellowship, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, from 2012-17.

She is the Honorary Secretary of the Society for Renaissance Studies and sits on the Executive Board for the International Network for the History of Hospitals.  She co-organised, with Dr Irena Benyovsky Latin of the Croatian Institute of History in Zagreb, a conference for the INHH which was held in Dubrovnik, Croatia in April 2015.  She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and of the Higher Education Academy.