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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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PRINTED FROM YALE SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.yale.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Yale University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in YSO for personal use.date: 26 September 2021

Medicine, the Environment and the Poor

Medicine, the Environment and the Poor

(p.51) Chapter 3 Medicine, the Environment and the Poor
Florence Under Siege

John Henderson

Yale University Press

This chapter emphasises the importance of taking seriously seventeenth-century medical theory, and its understanding of the environmental factors associated with plague. The increasing belief in the link between environment and disease led to closer attention by government and medical staff to the living conditions of the poor. In Florence, as in some other Italian cities at the time, the public health authorities instituted a detailed house-by-house survey of the living conditions of the poor. The chapter provides a detailed analysis of the survey, and in the process reveals the crowded and insanitary living conditions of the poorer members of society. It stresses that measures taken to address these problems are not just evidence of insanitary conditions, but are also part of a long tradition of proactive sanitary legislation which sought to cleanse houses and streets of the filth seen as causing disease. More broadly, the chapter seeks to understand these measures in relation to attitudes towards the poorer members of society, as reflected in contemporary medical and government rhetoric, which even sought to blame the poor for the worsening epidemic through their poor diet, lifestyle, and behaviour.

Keywords:   medical theory, environment, plague, disease, insanitary living conditions, Florence, public health, poor people, sanitary legislation, epidemic

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