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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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Surviving Plague

Surviving Plague

(p.229) Chapter 8 Surviving Plague
Florence Under Siege

John Henderson

Yale University Press

This chapter assesses the everyday life of the inhabitants who remained in the city, not having been taken off to a Lazaretto or to a quarantine centre. It provides a more nuanced picture of the identity and reactions of the poorer levels of society through a discussion of how the criminal justice system in Florence worked in practice. These records reveal that many prosecutions were of individuals and families who had adopted strategies to survive. Trials, interviews, and witness statements reflect the personal experience of how the city's population dealt with being shut up at home, leading to isolation and deprival of their normal means of support as families were split up and economic activities were banned. Court records reflect not just an extraordinary amount of social activity, despite the imposition of measures of social and sanitary control, as people escaped from locked-up houses, climbed over roofs to visit family, friends, or prostitutes, and tried to carry on their normal trades to help starving families. If economic hardship formed a major motive for people breaking out of and into houses, there were also organised gangs who exploited the crisis and conducted criminal activities, which led to the theft of valuables from locked houses and isolation and quarantine centres.

Keywords:   criminal justice system, Florence, prosecutions, isolation, court records, social activity, economic hardship, organised gangs, criminal activities, theft

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