The Control of Plague in Venice and Northern Italy 1348-1600.
The classical theory that plague was caused by breathing in
corrupt air was challenged by, the Black Death, which was seen to
be contagious. Civic authorities responded more quickly than
the medical profession,, and were. increasingly involved in
attempts to prevent. the spread of plague. Particularly
influential-was Milan, where a permanent Health Office,
responsible for plague control, was established before the mid-fifteenth
century, Venice maintained a Health Office from 1490.
At first its concerns were civic, but later it took
responsibility for the whole Venetian mainland and for the work
of provincial Offices.. Plague control came to be conceived in
broad territorial terms, and by 1600 the Health Offices of the.
Northern Italian states were in close cooperation...
To control disease the Health Offices banned infected areas,
preventing the movement of persons and merchandise by cordons
sanitaires and health. passes. From the fifteenth century
lazarettos were established, at first as hospitals for the
plague sick, and later as, centres for quarantine and disinfection..
Although hampered by administrative problems, the plague
measures corresponded remarkably to the needs of the situation..
The knowledge-of plague gained inductively by the Health.
Offices stood in uneasy relation to theological and classical
theories about epidemics.. In the mid-sixteenth century
Fracastoro and other physicians sought a synthesis. Writers on
the epidemic. in Venice and Padua in 1555-6 believed that. plague
might arise initially by corruption of the air and then spread
elsewhere. by, contagion alone.. In the plague, , of 1576, however,
it was doubted whether plague in which contagion. alone was
operative could be called 'true plague'. The resulting disputes
revealed the continued vigour of classical theory in the late
sixteenth century. The, survival of theological views of plague
was promoted at the same time by the gathering pace of the