The Migrant Plague-Bearers of Late Medieval Italy: The Formation of a Minority Culture
Bianca Lopez is the W.R. Nicholson Endowed Assistant Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Southern Methodist University. Her first book Queen of Sorrows: Grief and the State at a Marian Shrine after the Black Death considers the rise of Marian devotion in late-medieval Italy, as rural shrines dominated urban religion by 1500. She has received fellowships from the Fulbright Program, Ford Foundation, and Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. Her second book considers the cultural identity formation of eastern Adriatic migrants living in the city-states of fifteenth-century Italy.
In the fifteenth century, migrants to the Italian peninsula from eastern Adriatic lands were targets of anti-immigration legislation and edicts of expulsion, especially during periods of epidemic disease. In response to repeated plagues, governing bodies implemented quarantine policies targeting migrant communities, who were forced to live and work on the margins of urban centers. The persecution of migrants leads to significant historical questions, which complicate our understanding of late-medieval Italy: who were these plague-bearers, and why did they suddenly enter into the public record, in the most tragic of ways, in the middle of the fifteenth century? In fact, public health practices such as containment and quarantine helped lead to the creation of ethnic and cultural minorities. This project will follow migrants westward, from their eastern Adriatic homelands to new residences in Italian port cities. I suggest that city-states’ exclusionary measures, and the ways migrants confronted persecution, bring cohesion to the disparate regions of Italy.