L’impact de la peste en Italie au début de l’Epoque Moderne: une nouvelle évaluation

le Lundi 30 Mai 2011 à l’Ined, salle Sauvy

Discutante: Isabelle Seguy (INED) La présentation sera en français

The research completed during the last decades on Italian early modern plagues has shown that the disease acquired characteristics that differentiate it from the Black Death of the 14th century and the epidemics that followed. By the 16th century, plague was perceived as a disease striking mostly the poor, who consequently came to be considered responsible for it. The disease also possessed other "selective" characteristics, for example because it tended to strike mostly the young adults, and in general was no longer considered a universal killer as at the time of the Black Death.
Only recently, however, other aspects have been uncovered, particularly as regards the epidemiological development of the disease. Compared with the two earlier centuries, the 16th has now been recognized as a period in which the overall impact of plague was modest. In the 17th, however, Italy was struck by the worst plague pandemics since the Black Death, in two waves: 1629-1630 and 1656-1657. More generally, it has been suggested that in that century plague affected much more severely Mediterranean Europe, and especially Italy, than Northern Europe. The disease, then, had become selective also as regards the areas struck worst - acting as a kind of "territorial killer". It has been suggested that what differentiates the Italian 17th century plagues from both the contemporary European ones, and from those occurring in Italy one century earlier, is the capacity of the disease to affect both cities and rural areas, striking pervasively vast territories. This "territorial pervasiveness" is a key variable differentiating plagues and as such must be measured, for example as the probability of a community being struck by a specific plague wave.
Based on new research which explored different aspects of Italian (and European) early modern plagues, the seminar will propose an overall re-evaluation of the impact of the disease in 16th and 17th centuries, both from the demographic point of view (proposing new estimates of the overall mortality rates in different areas of Italy and in the peninsula as a whole) and from that of the economic consequences of the plague epidemics.