Plague in Italy and Europe during the 17th century

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By | Early Medicine, Events and Visits

The next seminar in the 2017–18 History of Pre-Modern Medicine seminar series takes place on Tuesday 30 January.

Etching showing plague victims

The plague of Florence in 1348, as described in Boccaccio’s Decameron. Etching by L. Sabatelli (1772–1850). Iconographic no. 10124i.

Speaker: Professor Guido Alfani (Bocconi University, Milan)

Plague in Italy and Europe during the 17th century: epidemiology and impact


After many years of relative neglect, plague has started to attract a growing amount of research. Although most of it focused on the Middle Ages, and in particular on the most iconic of plague epidemics, the 14th-century Black Death, studies conducted on early modern plagues are changing deeply our understanding of their demographic and socio-cultural characteristics and consequences. This seminar will focus on the last great plagues of the 17th century in Europe, which in some areas, especially in southern Europe, caused an overall mortality not very far from that of the Black Death. It will begin by analysing the new knowledge about plague epidemiology, underlining key differences in the way in which the plague affected the north and the south of the continent. It will then explore the long-term demographic and economic consequences of the 17th-century plagues, which probably were one of the main contributing factors of the relative economic decline of Italy as well as of other advanced areas of southern Europe.


Wellcome Library, 183 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE.

Doors open at 6pm, seminar will start at 6.15pm.

The seminar series is focused on pre-modern medicine, which we take to cover European and non-European history before the 20th century (antiquity, medieval and early modern history, some elements of 19th-century medicine).

Further details on the seminar series are available in a previous post.

Ross Macfarlane

Ross Macfarlane is the Research Engagement Officer at the Wellcome Library.

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