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EpidemicsHate and Compassion from the Plague of Athens to AIDS$
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Samuel K. Cohn, Jr.

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198819660

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198819660.001.0001

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Plague Spreaders

Plague Spreaders

(p.127) 6 Plague Spreaders

Samuel K. Cohn, Jr.

Oxford University Press

This chapter challenges assumptions that the Black Death initiated a new phase of plague-inspired hatred and persecution, especially against Jews. After the Black Death, no plagues provoked persecution of minorities or outsiders until myths of plague spreaders arose during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The chapter then examines the best-documented and known case of presumed plague spreading, that of Milan in 1630. Instead of persecution of foreign and impoverished plague cleaners (monatti), other outsiders, or the poor, as currently believed, it discovers that the butts of these suspicions were mainly insiders—native-born, propertied artisans, bankers, and military officers. On the other hand, those making the accusations and those executing the punishments stitched a seemingly unconscious coalition between impoverished women and Milanese elites backed by the city’s Health Board, one of the most advanced in Europe, the city’s prestigious physicians, and its archbishop.

Keywords:   Black Death, plagues, Jews, Germany, Milan, plague spreaders, torture, monatti, Calvinists, religious persecution

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