Plague epidemics and public health in Mantua, 1463-1577

Leonard, Marie-Louise (2014) Plague epidemics and public health in Mantua, 1463-1577. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis investigates how health officials sought to preserve or recover good health during plague epidemics in Mantua, from 1463-1577. Scholarship on health boards in Italy has focused primarily on larger cities such as Milan, Florence and Venice, while many smaller cities and states which formed part of the wider network of interdependent health offices have yet to receive significant attention. This study attempts to address this imbalance by focussing on Mantua, a hitherto neglected area in the heart of northern Italy. Historians have shown by the sixteenth century health offices had wide-ranging responsibilities, yet their most important function remained tackling plague outbreaks through measures including trade and travel bans, quarantine periods and lazaretti. An analysis of the Mantuan health office’s actions and reactions reveal that it does not fit neatly with the health board model historians have established elsewhere in northern and central Italy. I will argue that while the hallmarks of the ‘Italian system’ of public health procedures are evident, closer examination of their organisation and composition reveals that they were shaped by the incidence and severity of outbreaks. Above all, however, they were dependent upon and defined by the evolving state apparatus and by participation of the wider community, both lay and ecclesiastic. Contrary to the view that permanent Italian health offices enforced plague regulations uniformly, there was a degree of flexibility in application within the structures created to fight plague. Further, it will be argued that by examining in detail symbolic acts, such as processions, in conjunction with practical methods we see with greater clarity how civic and ecclesiastical authorities worked together in the attempt to restore the city to good health. By exploring the dialogues between civic authorities, the people they governed and interactions between specific health agencies across the peninsula, this thesis contributes to the understanding of the Gonzagan state-building process and concepts of public health in Renaissance Italy.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Renaissance Italy, Mantua, Plague, Public Health
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > DG Italy
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Cohn, Professor Samuel K.
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Miss Marie-Louise Leonard
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-5704
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2014 12:15
Last Modified: 14 May 2024 08:49
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.5704
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