An Italian Story in Comparative Perspective
With comparative forays into Spain and Russia, this chapter concentrates on Italy and the historical trajectory of cholera disturbances from 1837 to its last major cholera wave in 1910–11. While the collective violence of cholera was confined mostly to Sicily in 1837, it expanded from the 1860s to 1910–11 across the mainland, affecting cities in Rome’s ambit, Livorno in Tuscany, and city states of the North, including Venice. Despite greater understanding of cholera’s transmission and the culturing of the bacillus in 1884, these riots amassed crowds as large as 3000, with the same beliefs that the state and doctors were scheming to cull populations of the poor, leading to pharmacists, physicians, and mayors being murdered and hospitals and town halls destroyed. With cholera in Naples in 1973 and social unrest, these mythologies finally disappeared. Now, working classes rioted against the scarcity of medicines and absence of professional care.
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