The University of Wisconsin Press



Fighting the Plague in Seventeenth-Century Italy
Carlo M. Cipolla

Curti Lectures

"Three interesting essays on Renaissance plague epidemiology, Renaissance diplomacy in early international control of plague, and a case study of the impact of plague on Pistoia in 1630–31."
—John Norris, Bulletin of the History of Medicine

After the great pandemic of 1348, the plague became endemic in Europe, affecting life at every level for more than three hundred years. In attempting to fight the dread enemy, the North Italian states had developed, by the early sixteenth century, a highly sophisticated system of public health. Special permanent magistracies combining legislative and executive powers were established to administer all public health matters.

In this volume, Carlo M. Cipolla throws new light on the subject, utilizing newly uncovered and significant archival material.

In the first essay, the author analyzes the complex set of interrelationships that existed between theory and practice in Renaissance epidemiology. The significance of this essay goes beyond the history of public health and extends to the larger history of science.

In the second essay, Cipolla studies a case in which health matters became the object of intense diplomatic activity. In that instance, fully sovereign states envisaged interstate controls and relinquished discretionary powers for the sake of the "common health." Although the concerted effort was short-lived, it does represent an attempt at international health cooperation that was unmatched for another two centuries, until the first International Sanitary Conference, held in Paris in 1851.

In the third essay, unusually detailed statistical documentation allows the author to analyze in detail the demographic, economic, and social aspects of the fight against the plague in a Tuscan city—Pistoia—during the epidemic of 1630–31.

A richly documented appendix, forming an essay in itself, illustrates present knowledge of the clinical, pathological, and epidemiological features of the plague in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Europe.

Carlo M. Cipolla, professor of economic history at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author or editor of a number of books. Among those related to the present topic are Cristofano and the Plague (California, 1973), Public Health and the Medical Profession in the Renaissance (Cambridge, 1976), and Faith, Reason, and the Plague in Seventeenth-Century Tuscany (Cornell, 1979).

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

Cipolla's book is white with brown text and a black bar

March 1981
LC: 80-005111 RC
136 pp. 5 1/4 x 8 1/4

This title is out of print
  Review cart contents
Secure checkout


Home | Books | Journals | Events | Textbooks | Authors | Related | Search | Order | Contact

If you have trouble accessing any page in this web site, contact our Web manager.

Updated September 30, 2011

© 2011, The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System