1st Edition

Plague in the Early Modern World A Documentary History

Edited By Dean Phillip Bell Copyright 2019
    302 Pages
    by Routledge

    302 Pages
    by Routledge

    Plague in the Early Modern World presents a broad range of primary source materials from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, China, India, and North America that explore the nature and impact of plague and disease in the early modern world.

    During the early modern period frequent and recurring outbreaks of plague and other epidemics around the world helped to define local identities and they simultaneously forged and subverted social structures, recalibrated demographic patterns, dictated political agendas, and drew upon and tested religious and scientific worldviews. By gathering texts from diverse and often obscure publications and from areas of the globe not commonly studied, Plague in the Early Modern World provides new information and a unique platform for exploring early modern world history from local and global perspectives and examining how early modern people understood and responded to plague at times of distress and normalcy.

    Including source materials such as memoirs and autobiographies, letters, histories, and literature, as well as demographic statistics, legislation, medical treatises and popular remedies, religious writings, material culture, and the visual arts, the volume will be of great use to students and general readers interested in early modern history and the history of disease.


    Modern medicine and conditions

    Vulnerability and resilience: conceptual categories and interpretive framework


    1: The bubonic plague: historical overview and scope


    Defining early modern plague

    Recurrence of plague

    Global dimensions

    Plague and other disease epidemics


    1.1 Plague in the Ottoman capital: a diplomatic perspective

    Author: Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq (1522–92)

    Title: The Turkish Letters of Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, Imperial Ambassador at Constantinople 1554–1562

    1.2 A visitor’s perspective on plague

    Author: Baron Wenceslas Wratislaw of Mitrowitz

    Title: Adventures of Baron Wenceslas Wratislaw of Mitrowitz…

    1.3 Plague in early modern Hindustan

    Author: Jahangir, Emperor of Hindustan (1569–1627)

    Title: The Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri; or, Memoirs of Jahangir

    1.4 Plague statistics in Frankfurt am Main (1622–40)

    1.5 Episodes from the plague in Rome of 1656. Etching

    1.6 Plague death tolls in the early seventeenth century

    Author: Richard Bradley, F. R. S. (1688–1732)

    Title: The Plague at Marseilles Considered…

    1.7 Plague and other diseases in eighteenth-century Aleppo

    Author: Alexander Russell (c 1715–68)

    Title: Natural History of Aleppo

    1.8 Plague in Russia

    Author: Charles Mertens (1737–88)

    Title: An Account of the Plague which Raged at Moscow in 1771

    1.9 A major plague episode in China in 1770/71

    1.10 Observing plague in early modern Africa

    Author: Johannes Leo Africanus (c 1494–c 1554)

    Title: The History and Description of Africa of Leo Africanus

    1.11 Epidemic disease in early modern North America

    Author: Noah Webster (1758–1843)

    Title: A Brief History of Epidemic and Pestilential Diseases


    2: Religious understanding of and response to plague

    Textual foundations

    Late medieval religious orientations

    Saints, relics, and processions

    Flight from plague


    2.1 Prayer as a weapon against the plague

    Author: Ismail ibn Kathīr (b c 1300–73)

    Title: The Beginning and End: On History (c 1350–51)

    2.2 Competition in the religious economy

    Author: Michele da Piazza

    Title: Chronicle (1347–61)

    2.3 Islamic religious responses to plague: fasting and sacrifice

    Author: Ibn Taghrī Birdī

    Title: History of Egypt 1382–1469 CE

    2.4 Seeking saintly intercession: the case of Saint Roche

    2.4A: Devotion to Saint Roche

    Author: Jehan Phelipot

    Title: The Life, Legend, Miracles of Saint Roch (1494)

    2.4B: Saintly intercession

    2.4C: Saint Roch in church

    2.5 God punishes Egypt with the sixth plague, the plague of boils

    2.6 Fleeing from the plague

    Author: Martin Luther (1483–1546)

    Title: "Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague" (1527)

    2.7 Clergy and the plague: intercession and activity

    Author: Nicolau Gracida

    Title: "Letter to Manuel Lopez" (1538)

    2.8 Supplications to God to end the plague

    Author: Selaniki Mustafa Efendi (d 1600)

    Title: Chronicle of Salonika [Tarih-i-Selaniki]

    2.9 Prayer to avert the plague

    Title: "Prayer for a Time in Which There Is No Plague Arriving"

    2.10 Procession as a response to plague

    Artist: Jean Solvain (1600–64)

    Title: "The Vow of the Plague, Procession, April 22, 1630"

    2.11 Religious approaches to illness

    Author: Heinrich Grasmüller (b c 1630)

    Title: Sickness-Book, or Prayers and Adages of Consolation for the Sick and Dying (Hamburg, 1681)

    2.12 Monument to the plague

    Erasmus Siegmund Alkofer, Regensburg Plague- and Penance-Monument on Account of the Plague and Pestilence Raging Widely in the Year of Christ 1713 (1714)

    2.13 A memorial of plague in the eighteenth century: religious understandings

    Author: Erasmus Siegmund Alkofer (1673–1727)

    Title: Regensburg Pestilence- and Penance Memorial on the Occasion of the Plague and Pestilence Raging Widely in the Year of Christ 1713

    2.14 Religious responses to other disease epidemics

    Author: Jonathan Belcher

    Title: "A Proclamation for a Public Fast"

    2.15 Early modern saints

    Artist: Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre (1714–89)

    Title: "St. Charles Borromeo Distributing Communion to the Victims of the Plague in Milan" (c 1760)


    3: Medical understanding of and responses to plague

    Early modern conceptions of plague

    The spread of plague: contagion and miasma

    Early modern experiences

    Scientific traditions and underpinnings

    Plague: between science and religion


    3.1 Applying wound dressings, scarification with cupping glasses

    Title: Treatise on the Plague (Tractatabus de Pestilentia) (fifteenth century)

    3.2 Tradition and innovation in early modern medicine

    Author: Girolamo Fracastoro (c. 1478–1553)

    Title: On Contagion and Contagious Diseases and Their Cures (1546)

    3.3 Plague precautions

    Author: Francois Valleriole (1504–80)

    Title: Tractate on the Plague (1566)

    3.4 Confronting the ancients

    Author: Wu Youxing (c 1580–1660)

    Title: Treatise on Acute Epidemic Warmth [Wenyilun] (1642)

    3.5 The plague (1649): Hospital del Pozo Santo, Spain

    Anonymous, Seville, Spain (seventeenth century)

    3.6 Classifications of plague

    Author: M. Chicoyneau, Verney, and Soullier

    Title: "A Succinct Account of the Plague at Marseilles: Its Symptoms, and the Methods and Medicines Used for Curing It" (1721)

    3.7 Dietary considerations in preventing plague

    Title: Medicina Flagellata (1721)

    3.8 Protective clothing

    Author: Jean-Jacques Manget (1652–1742)

    Title: Treatise on the Plague (Geneva, 1721)

    3.9 Cattle plague

    Author: Richard Bradley, F. R. S. (1688–1732)

    Title: The Plague at Marseilles Considered (1721)

    3.10 Comparing diseases and treatment

    Author: Richard Mead (1673–1754)

    Title: A Discourse on the Plague (1744)


    4: Political and policy responses to plague

    Governmental actions: quarantines, lazarettos, hospitals

    The question of sanitation in civic ordinances

    Religious dimensions of political responses to plague


    4.1 Civic examinations

    Title: "The Plague Orders of 1541," Venice

    4.2 Running a plague house

    Author: Paul Hector Mair (1517–79)

    Title: Chronicle from 1547–1565

    4.3 The ideal plague hospital

    Author: Francois Valleriole (1504–80)

    Title: Trafficking of the Plague (1566)

    4.4 Tales of the lazaretto

    Author: Rocco Benedetti (active 1556–82)

    Title: "Account of the Plague of 1575–1577" (1630, Bologna; originally published in 1577 in Urbino)

    4.5 A Window onto early modern Jewish life

    Title: "Prague Plague Ordinance" (1607)

    4.6 Practical policies and approaches to the plague

    Author: Abraham Catalano (d. 1642)

    Title: "A World Turned Upside-Down"

    4.7 London plague ordinances (1665)

    Author: Daniel Defoe (1660–1731)

    Title: Journal of the Plague Year (1722)

    4.8 The lazaretto and medical services to the community

    Author: Jacob ben Isaac Zahalon (1630–93)

    Title: "The Treasure of Life" (1683)

    4.9 An eighteenth-century epidemic in Western Europe

    Artist: Etching by J. Rigaud after M. Serre

    Title: "The Port of Marseille during the Plague of 1720" (1720)


    5: Social responses to plague: memory, society, and culture

    Impact on daily life

    Marginalization: plague as polemical tool and boundary marker

    Marginal and liminal segments of society: the poor, foreigners, and Jews

    Cultural responses to plague


    5.1 Judicial protection of Jews—theory

    Author: Pope Clement VI (1291–1352, r. 1342–52)

    Title: "Sicut Judeis" (Mandate to Protect the Jews) (October 1, 1348)

    5.2 Communal responses and social implications of the plague

    Author: Ahmad ibn ‘Alī al-Maqrīzī (1364–1442)

    Title: A History of the Ayyubids and Mamluks (fifteenth century)

    5.3 Finance magistrate’s book cover

    Anonymous, Siena, Italy, 1437

    "Allegory of the Plague"

    5.4 Exegesis and plague

    Author: Martin Luther (1483–1546)

    Title: "First Lectures on the Psalms" (1513–15)

    5.5 Jewish suffering in the exile

    Author: Samuel Usque (c. 1500–after 1555)

    Title: Consolation for the Tribulations of Israel (Ferrara, 1553)

    5.6 Heresy, more pernicious than plague

    Author: Jan David (c. 1545–1613)

    Title: Christian Soothsayer … (1603)

    5.7 Engraving of the torture and execution of alleged plague carriers
    Title: Description of the Implementation of Justice Made in Milan against Some of Them Who Have Made Up and Spread the Anointed Pestiferous … (Milan, 1630)

    5.8 Imagined power?

    Author: Joseph Juspa Hahn of Nördlingen (1570–1637)

    Title: Maaseh Nissim (early seventeenth century)

    5.9 Intra communal relations

    Author: Anonymous

    Title: "Autobiography" (seventeenth century)

    5.10 Plague and public space

    Artist: Carlo Coppola (d. c.1672)

    Title: "Plague Scene in Market Square" (Naples, Italy, 1656) (detail)

    5.11 Family, community, and politics

    Author: Glückel (Glikl bas Judah Leib) of Hameln (1646–1724)

    Title: Memoirs (before 1720)

    5.12 Literary constructions of plague

    Author: Daniel Defoe (1660–1731)

    Title: Journal of the Plague Year (1722)

    5.12A Plague and the common man

    5.12B Escaping quarantine

    5.12C Family abandonment


    Works cited

    Further reading


    Dean Phillip Bell is President/CEO and Professor of Jewish History at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago. His publications include Sacred Communities: Jewish and Christian Identities in Fifteenth-Century Germany, Jews in the Early Modern World, and Jewish Identity in Early Modern Germany: Memory, Power and Identity. He is also editor of The Routledge Companion to Jewish History and Historiography.