John Henderson, ‘More Feared than Death Itself'? Isolation Hospitals and Plague in Seventeenth-Century Florence’


Thursday, December 17, 2015, 5:00pm to 6:30pm


Gould Hall

This seminar examines the central role of the Lazaretto in the campaign against the last major epidemic of plague to affect Florence in 1630–33. It seeks to re-assess how far the isolation of the sick in Lazaretti, often trumpeted as a vital contribution of Italian public health policy, really did help to mitigate the impact of plague, when compared with simply shutting-up people in their houses, more common to northern Europe. The aim will be to recreate the lives and often tragic events of these institutions and above all of the major Lazaretto in the city at S. Miniato al Monte. Emphasis will be placed on the experience of the personnel who worked there, based on a wide range of written, visual and written records, and above all on the almost daily correspondence between their directors and members of the city’s Health Board, or Sanità.

This one hour seminar presentation will be followed by a half-hour discussion.

John Henderson is Professor of Italian Renaissance History in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology, Birkbeck College, University of London, and Fellow of Wolfson College, University of Cambridge. He has published a wide range of books and articles on the social, religious and medical history of medieval and renaissance Tuscany. Major monographs include: Piety and Charity in Late Medieval Florence (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1994; Chicago University Press, 1997; Casa Editrice Le Lettere, Florence, 1998); The Great Pox. The French Disease in Renaissance Europe, with J. Arrizabalaga and R. French (Yale University Press, 1997), and The Renaissance Hospital. Healing the Body and Healing the Soul (Yale University Press, 1997; Steiner Verlag, Stuttgard, 2015; Odoya, Bologna, forthcoming). He is at present completing a book on plague in early modern Florence for Yale University Press. In 2013 he was a Visiting Professor at Villa I Tatti.