Histories of a Plague Year

Regular readers of this blog know I’m not given to picking my reading based on bestsellers, hype, popularity or any contemporary trend.

However, I did engage in a bit of “COVID reading” back in April. Actually, I just wanted toread another Black Plague book, one of the few unread in my library.

So let’s look at the Sanitary Dictatorship circa 1630-31. Readers may recognize it from our current versions: shut businesses, informers, and house arrest.

Review: Histories of a Plague Year: The Social and Imaginary in Baroque Florence, Giulia Calvi, trans. Dario Biocca and Bryant T. Ragan, Jr., 1989.

While the bubonic plague that came to Florence in 1630-31 wasn’t quite as deadly as the second European pandemic of the plague in 1347, it still killed between 20 and 60 percent of those infected.

Florence was prepared for the return of the plague. It never really left Europe since 1347.

They formed the Florentine Public Health. When plague hit the city, Public Health initiated a series of laws regarding entry to the city, identification of infected people, isolating them, treating them, and, all too often, burying them.

What could be the problem? It seems so sensible – apart from the fact that doctors, barber-surgeons, and herbalists had no clue what caused the disease.

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