25th February - Coping with plague: public health and epidemics in renaissance Italy

25 Feb 2019
Coping with plague: public health and epidemics in renaissance Italy

25 February 2019 at 5pm


Early modern Italy, though best known for the birth of the Renaissance, is also renowned for the precocious development of its public health policies to cope with epidemic disease. Focusing mainly on 17th-century Tuscany, John Henderson will argue that it is time to re-assess early modern Italian policies dealing with plague within a wider context of measures adopted by other European cities and states and more generally those adopted during the Third Plague Pandemic, especially as early modern Italy has often been seen as providing the model for 19th- and 20th-century public health strategies. Henderson’s approach is to look behind the optimistic gloss of official printed accounts to examine the often moving and tragic stories of the individuals who ran hospitals, the doctors who treated plague victims, and above all of the ordinary men and women left bereft and confused by the sickness and death of family members.

John Henderson is one of the leading social historians of renaissance and early modern Italy. He is Professor of Italian Renaissance History in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, Birkbeck, University of London, and Fellow of Wolfson College, University of Cambridge. He has published a wide range of books and articles on the social, religious and medical history of medieval and renaissance Tuscany, including: Piety and Charity in Late Medieval Florence (Clarendon Press, 1994); The Great Pox. The French Disease in Renaissance Europe, with Jon Arrizabalaga and Roger French (Yale University Press, 1997); The Renaissance Hospital. Healing the Body and Healing the Soul (Yale University Press, 2006; Florence under Siege. Surviving the Plague in an Early Modern City (Yale University Press, forthcoming).

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