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Florence Under SiegeSurviving Plague in an Early Modern City$
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John Henderson

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780300196344

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300196344.001.0001

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The Invasion of Plague in Early Modern Italy

The Invasion of Plague in Early Modern Italy

(p.23) Chapter 2 The Invasion of Plague in Early Modern Italy
Florence Under Siege

John Henderson

Yale University Press

This chapter discusses the origins and spread of plague in northern Italy. Plague arrived in Italy in 1629 with French and German troops. It is no accident that the initial cases of plague identified in October of 1629 were first in Piedmont in the Val di Susa, west of Turin and near the border with France, and secondly in the Valtellina in Lombardy, subsequently travelling to Lake Como to the north of Milan. Other cities in northern Italy soon became infected and on May 6, 1630, the authorities as far south as Bologna announced the official outbreak of plague. Judging by the rapidity with which plague spread between these northern urban centres, one would have expected the epidemic to have arrived in Tuscany by early May, given that Bologna is only 65 miles north of Florence, but it was delayed by both natural and man-made factors. Tuscany is separated from Reggio-Emilia by the Apennine mountain range, which provided a physical barrier and facilitated the control of traffic coming from the north. The chapter then traces the preventive measures adopted by the health board as the plague approached Tuscany, including cordons sanitaires along frontiers, the removal of the sick to quarantine centres, and the rapid burial of the dead.

Keywords:   plague, northern Italy, outbreak, epidemic, Tuscany, Florence, preventive measures, health board, cordons sanitaires, quarantine centres

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