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The Fifteenth Century XII

The Fifteenth Century XII: Society in an Age of Plague

LINDA CLARK
CAROLE RAWCLIFFE
Volume: 22
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 236
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt31nhf6
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  • Book Info
    The Fifteenth Century XII
    Book Description:

    Described as "a golden age of pathogens", the long fifteenth century was notable for a series of international, national and regional epidemics that had a profound effect upon the fabric of society. The impact of pestilence upon the literary, religious, social and political life of men, women and children throughout Europe and beyond continues to excite lively debate among historians, as the ten papers presented in this volume confirm. They deal with the response of urban communities in England, France and Italy to matters of public health, governance and welfare, as well as addressing the reactions of the medical profession to successive outbreaks of disease, and of individuals to the omnipresence of Death, while two, very different, essays examine the important, if sometimes controversial, contribution now being made by microbiologists to our understanding of the Black Death. Contributors: J.L. Bolton, Elma Brenner, Samuel Cohn, John Henderson, Neil Murphy, Elizabeth Rutledge, Samantha Sagui, Karen Smyth, Jane Stevens Crawshaw, Sheila Sweetinburgh

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-166-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-ix)
    Linda Clark
  6. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. x-x)
  7. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-14)
    Carole Rawcliffe

    Ovid’s description of the punishment inflicted upon the people of Aegina by Juno, in a fit of pique because they named their city after her rival for Jupiter’s affections, ranks, along with Thucydides’ celebrated account of the Athenian plague of 430–26 BC, as one of the great set-piece descriptions of pestilence. It has been regarded as a ‘prototype’ for an emerging genre that eventually gave rise to Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year,² and it clearly made a profound impression upon the monastic chronicler, Thomas Walsingham. He refers to the ‘furnace blasts of death’ borne on southerly winds when...

  8. LOOKING FOR YERSINIA PESTIS: SCIENTISTS, HISTORIANS AND THE BLACK DEATH
    (pp. 15-38)
    J.L. Bolton

    The fact that the plague in its bubonic, septicaemic and pneumonic forms is still with us in the twenty-first century often comes as a shock to the general public. Memories of school projects have made them vaguely aware of the great pandemic, which arrived in southern Italy in 1347 and then raged across Europe, reaching England and Norway in 1348, through Oslo in 1348 and then through Bergen in 1349, and European Russia in 1351, where the city state of Novgorod was first infected.¹ But then, surely, it went away? Not quite: outbreaks of plague in this second pandemic, first...

  9. PESTILENCE AND POETRY: JOHN LYDGATE’S DANSE MACABRE
    (pp. 39-56)
    Karen Smyth

    Death is the active subject in this fifteenth-century poem and is portrayed as a multi-faceted character, being both perceptive and learned but also tactile and aggressive.² Plague is the agency, or form of attack, by which Death’s desires appear to be fulfilled. His targets: everyone. John Lydgate translated this text, he tells us in the ‘Verba tanslatoris’ or prologue to the poem, from a French original ‘Danse macabre in cimetière des Innocents’, which it is presumed he saw when he was in Paris (as a member of the earl of Warwick’s administrative staff) in 1426.³ A slightly revised version was...

  10. PILGRIMAGE IN ‘AN AGE OF PLAGUE’: SEEKING CANTERBURY’S ‘HOOLY BLISFUL MARTIR’ IN 1420 AND 1470
    (pp. 57-78)
    Sheila Sweetinburgh

    As Carole Rawcliffe has reminded us, in medieval culture the close linkage between the Church and healing with respect to both body and soul was widely understood, and pilgrimage was a principal means of seeking such aid.¹ Even though the greatest collections of miracle cures at English shrines belong to the high Middle Ages, miracles continued to be recorded in various ways until the shrines were destroyed in the sixteenth century. Pilgrimage, too, was recognised for its penitential value, the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury being one of the four major destinations; and, as well as encouraging personal initiatives,...

  11. AN URBAN ENVIRONMENT: NORWICH IN THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY
    (pp. 79-100)
    Elizabeth Rutledge

    Academic interest in the medieval and later urban environment is by no means a new phenomenon and is apparent, for example, in an historical account of Norwich written by the early eighteenth-century antiquary John Kirkpatrick.¹ The final decades of the last century, however, witnessed a renewed interest in the subject in relation to both medieval and to more modern towns. Many of the resulting studies have concentrated on a specific aspect of the urban landscape and the responses this invoked, and/or on the relationship between the environment and health.² This paper, however, aims to look more generally at the state...

  12. MID-LEVEL OFFICIALS IN FIFTEENTH-CENTURY NORWICH
    (pp. 101-122)
    Samantha Sagui

    John Clement, a brewer, entered the Norwich franchise in 1447. Over the next decade he was a constable nine times and a tax collector once, but he never discharged any other civic office.¹ In spite of their important role in administering and maintaining order in English cities, men like Clement have been neglected as a result of English urban historians’ tendency to focus on the better-documented and wealthier mercantile elite. Prosopographical analyses of urban political, economic, and social groups have directed some attention towards middling artisans and retailers because of their focus on collective biography, but the relative dearth of...

  13. LEPROSY AND PUBLIC HEALTH IN LATE MEDIEVAL ROUEN
    (pp. 123-138)
    Elma Brenner

    In Rouen, as in many other major European cities, following the Black Death (1347–50) there was increased anxiety about environmental health, and it was thought necessary to protect the urban population from the spread of disease through corrupt, or miasmatic, air. These preoccupations were linked to growing concerns about cleanliness, stench, ‘infection’ and the elimination of ‘pollution’, as a result of which certain features of civic life appeared particularly dangerous, including vagrant pigs and poultry, open latrines, the slaughter of animals in public places, rotten food, rubbish and contaminated water.¹ Such anxieties were closely linked to the Galenic model...

  14. PLAGUE ORDINANCES AND THE MANAGEMENT OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES IN NORTHERN FRENCH TOWNS, c.1450–c.1560
    (pp. 139-160)
    Neil Murphy

    During the first half of the sixteenth century, municipal councils across northern France issued ordinances designed to combat outbreaks of plague. The measures contained in these ordinances were extensive and formed the core of urban responses to plague throughout the early modern period. These ordinances did not appear out of a vacuum; rather, they represented the codification of stratagems adopted during the second half of the fifteenth century. This article will describe and account for the growth of the public health system developed by the magistrates of towns lying in the urban belt of northern and north-eastern France from the...

  15. THE RENAISSANCE INVENTION OF QUARANTINE
    (pp. 161-174)
    Jane Stevens Crawshaw

    In 1405, Pietro Filargo (1339–1410) – who was Milan’s archbishop, the tutor and ambassador for Giovanni Galeazzo Visconti and future Pope Alexander V – described that city in painful terms. He wrote,

    How can things go well in this most miserable Milan, full of the poor, famished and pestilent who wander through the city showing spots and sores while so great and even adequate provisions are cruelly embezzled? The souls of benefactors are being damned, for no one prays for them any longer, no one gives charity any longer and the souls of those who do not respect the...

  16. COPING WITH EPIDEMICS IN RENAISSANCE ITALY: PLAGUE AND THE GREAT POX
    (pp. 175-194)
    John Henderson

    This article will examine and compare the way that society coped with two of the major epidemics to affect Renaissance Italy: plague and the Great Pox. Even though these diseases impacted on Italy as severely as they did on the rest of Europe, different countries devised different solutions to the same problems. Discussing the strategies that Italy adopted in the long fifteenth century is valuable not just to those who work on Italian Renaissance history, but also to historians of countries such as England which developed very different measures. Indeed, in the sixteenth century, in the case of plague, the...

  17. THE HISTORIAN AND THE LABORATORY: THE BLACK DEATH DISEASE
    (pp. 195-212)
    SAMUEL K. COHN JNR.

    The Black Death, along with subsequent strikes of plague into the early modern period, has been the spark of academic debates over the past century or more. Before the 1990s discussion concentrated on the disease’s consequences, first the demographic ones, then the plague’s effects on economy, society, and religion: did the great destruction of population have a silver lining, leading to higher standards of living, especially for the lower tiers of the population?¹ Did it lead to a more rational distribution of resources and a better organization of commercial society, as David Herlihy, Richard Goldthwaite and others have argued for...

  18. INDEX
    (pp. 213-223)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 224-231)