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Hidden Tours app brings history of female craftsmen in French city to life

19 December 2023

Historian Dr Margriet Hoogvliet of the Faculty of Arts has developed an app that guides the user through late medieval Tours. The walk through the French city is based on her scientific research into historical reading culture, revealing that female craftsmen in the French ancien régime were more literate than previously thought, playing a much more active role in city life. The Hidden Tours app is available for free on the App Store and Google Play.

In the app, Jehane Bernarde, a stocking maker from the year 1500, guides the user through the French city Tours during the late Middle Ages. Guided by GPS and a digitised historical map of Tours, the app user stops at eight locations - some famous, others off the beaten tourist paths - and listens to Jehane telling stories about her life and her time. The narrative of the walk unfolds as the city prepares for the royal entry of Louis XII and Anne of Brittany. Jehane must deliver silk stockings to Monseigneur de Dunois, a relative of the king himself, but she is also searching for a new book for her beloved collection, a Passion of Christ in French.

The walk

The walk begins at the location of the medieval bridge over the Loire River and ends near the famous Place Plumereau with its many nostalgic half-timbered houses. The app includes images of objects from the Bibliothèque Municipale, the Musée des Beaux Arts, and local archives, all related to the story and locations of the app. Jehane's story about her day in Tours is complemented at each stop with background information from the researchers themselves.

The app is based on the scientific research of Dr. Margriet Hoogvliet of the Faculty of Arts. She specialises in book history and, during her research, found an inventory of Jehane's possessions made shortly after her death in 1516. "Many stockings and ten books are mentioned. With this, and combined with what I knew about her family, I could build a plausible picture of this woman, based on research into the literacy of craftsmen and the religious and economic life in late medieval Tours."

"It is often still thought that almost everyone except the elite in premodern Europe was illiterate," says Hoogvliet. "But in French cities, even a modest stocking maker at that time had much more social and cultural capital than one can imagine."

Hidden Tours is the result of a collaboration between Dr. Hoogvliet, Prof. Dr. Sabrina Corbellini of the University of Groningen - who previously created the Hidden Deventer app - historians from the Centre d'études supérieures de la Renaissance (CESR) in Tours, and HistoryCity, a project of the University of Exeter (UK) producing public history for mobile media.


Hidden Tours is part of the HistoryCity project, a collaboration between historians from various European universities. Dr David Rosenthal, director of the HistoryCity project: "The app shows how people moved through their cities 500 years ago and how they interacted with places and objects that were part of their daily lives, some still existing, others in ruins or completely gone. With stocking maker Jehane, we give a voice to a historical figure that is not often presented to both tourists and a local audience. This way, the app gives users the feeling that they have one foot in the past and the other in the present."

HistoryCity is a non-profit, publicly funded project. Apps have been developed for historical walks in the Spanish Valencia, the German cities Hamburg and Landshut, the Danish capital Copenhagen, the English city Exeter, Florence and Trentino in Italy, and the Dutch city Deventer. Hidden Venice will be launched at the end of 2023. All apps are available for free download from the App Store and Google Play.

Hidden Tours
Hidden Tours
Last modified:19 December 2023 4.55 p.m.
View this page in: Nederlands

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