Plagues in Early Modern Europe: Online First

SPECIAL ISSUE ON COVID-19: ONLINE FIRST ARTICLES
 
Plagues in Early Modern Europe: History, Models, Representations and Metaphors
 
Epidemics are usually conceived of as sudden, devastating events against which there is no defence. Other features common to all descriptions of epidemics include a sense of seclusion, loneliness and deprivation, an altered perception of the physical world and of its symbolic topography, changed attitudes to human relationships, relegation to oblivion of practices considered holy, such as the burial of the dead, the inability of scientists to find a remedy or a cause, the folly of those in public power and of their provisions, the invention and persecution of scapegoats, or of criminals supposed to spread the contagion, the moral degradation which accompanies the disease...
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Manfred Pfister, Sir Thomas Browne and the Plague
 
Abstract:
Sir Thomas Browne’s little treatise is here published for the first time in an annotated version. It offers illuminating insights in how a prominent practicing physician and scholar from Norwich reacts to the plague hitting England in Early Modern times and the small help the medical knowledge about the plague from Paracelsus to Browne, which he examines with great learning.
 
Keywords: Hippocrates, Medicine, Plague, Theory and Practice
 
DOI: https://doi.org/10.13128/jems-2279-7149-11931
 
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Paola Pugliatti, ‘my good sweett mouse’. Letters in Time of Plague
 
Abstract:
Among the Henslowe-Alleyn papers donated by Edward Alleyn to Dulwich College in 1619 is a group of letters exchanged in 1593 between the Henslowe household in London, where Alleyn’s young wife Joan then lived, and Edward Alleyn, then touring in the provinces with Lord Strange’s men, when the London theatres were closed on account of the plague. These letters have always been read for the (scanty) contribution they give to the history of Elizabethan theatre. What has not been considered is their pragmatic peculiarity, which illustrates a real, and probably very rare case of collaboration in letter-writing. Joan Alleyn’s literacy was probably either incomplete, or null, and the letters sent to Alleyn were written by Henslowe, who was Joan’s step-father, and who, in turn, ‘received’ Alleyn’s letters to Joan and probably read them to her. The essay first describes the context in which the exchange took place: the 1592-1594 London plague epidemic, the consequent closing of the theatres, and the plague’s impact on the suburb of Southwark where the Henslowes lived; it also outlines the particular social, economic and affective features of the Henslowe family; then it examines the particular pragmatic situation in which the drafting of the letters a young bride addressed to her husband was entrusted to a figure of authority like a father rather than a scribe, a servant, a secretary, or a clerk, that is, the only figures considered by letter-writing theorists as a woman’s ‘extension’ of meanings, or ‘ventriloquist’ substitute. The article also intends to illuminate the figure of Joan Alleyn, née Woodward, her role as subject to her father’s patriarchy in her parents’ house, her management of her own household, and, for many years, the object of her husband’s love and care, when she followed, and was part of Edward Alleyn’s fortune – first as a renowned ‘model actor’ and later as a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist.
 
Keywords: Henslowe-Alleyn Papers, Joan Alleyn, Letter-Writing Pragmatics, London, Plague
 
DOI: https://doi.org/10.13128/jems-2279-7149-12082
 
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Jeanne Clegg, Preparing for Plague in 1720s London: Daniel Defoe’s Grand Experiment
 
Abstract:

Soon after the Black Death reached Italy in the autumn of 1347, the city-states of the quadrilateral instituted Boards of Health dedicated to keeping the disease out, containing its spread and eradicating conditions in which it thrived. Italian practices were later imitated by countries across Europe but not until the early eighteenth century were preventative measures introduced at state level in England. When epidemic struck Provence in 1720, the Whig ministry took powers to impose embargoes, quarantining of ships and cordons sanitaires around infected towns, but was forced to beat a partial retreat by attacks from mercantile interests, by the Country opposition and by anti-contagionists, attacks fuelled by appeals to preserve ‘English Liberties’.It was in this context that Defoe published Due Preparations for the Plague, As Well for Soul as Body. The treatise proposes measures both ‘General’ (to be carried out by governments and magistates, and publicly financed) and ‘Particular’ (organised by individuals and families). Taken together they constitute a series of experiments in avoiding contagion by ‘separating the People as much as possible from one another’. Experimental also with respect to serious plague discourse is Defoe’s intermingling of narrative and dialogue as means of helping readers imagine themselves already under the plague, and motivate them to prepare for an event never experienced. In A Journal of the Plague Year Defoe was to rework his proposals, re-framing and reinterpreting them in a less prescriptive mode and a more collective slant.

Keywords: Defoe, England, Plague, Preparations, 1720s
 
DOI: https://doi.org/10.13128/jems-2279-7149-12554
 
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Eleonora Serra, ‘Giudicho essere più ghuadagnio lo spendere qui che ’l ghuadagniare chostì’: The Plague in the Buonarroti Correspondence among Anxieties, Professional Dilemmas and Medical Beliefs
 
Abstract:

This paper examines the experiences of the plague in early sixteenth-century Italy from the perspective of one Florentine family, the Buonarroti, based on their vast correspondence. The paper explores the way the Buonarroti family members gave voice to their anxieties, particularly with regard to the violent outbreak that swept across Italy in the 1520s. It also examines the advice that family members gave each other, assessing the extent to which this reflected recommendations found in contemporary medical literature. These recommendations most often amounted to fleeing to isolated places, and avoiding contact with individuals and with potentially infected objects. Recommendations about prayers are also found. Comments on the notion of ‘bad’ air are especially frequent, showing that a close association between the concept of contagion and the concept of corrupt air existed not only in medical literature, but even for lay people. The paper underlines the dilemmas the Buonarroti family members (several of whom were wool merchants) faced when it came to choosing between saving their businesses or protecting their health. Finally, it explores writers’ perceptions of social differences, which times of plague might accentuate: their views of servants and of the poor, during outbreaks, were ambivalent, oscillating between compassion and anxiety.

Keywords: Florence, Micro-histories, Plague, Private letters, Renaissance
 
DOI: https://doi.org/10.13128/jems-2279-7149-12605