Plague and Poverty

Samuel K. Cohn

in Cultures of Plague

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780199574025
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722530 | DOI:
 						Plague and Poverty

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This chapter argues that plague writers across Italy in 1575–8 paid new attention to the social causes of plague. In seeing the plague as one principally afflicting the poor, they went beyond previous explanations grounded in Galen and other texts of classical, Arabic or Renaissance medicine—differences in complexion, humours, diet, and spoilt food. The new authors of 1575–8 pointed to class cleavages in the availability of medical care and treatment by political authorities. They linked social characteristics of neighbourhoods, inadequate and overcrowded housing, poor plumbing, and contaminated water to rates of plague mortality and saw in poverty the long‐term causes of plague.

Keywords: causes of plague; the poor; Galen; Renaissance medicine; humours; diet; overcrowding; housing; plumbing; contaminated water; social class

Chapter.  14411 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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