The subject of community has been researched extensively by sociologists and anthropologists, less so by historians. The 2009 conference challenged participants to consider the idea of community in relationship to the hospital and, particularly, to reflect on how historians should approach the wide range of communities that continue to be shaped by the work of these institutions. Collectively, the case studies in this volume demonstrate that navigation of the history of hospitals requires an understanding of the societies in which these institutions operated. In other words, hospital histories are not just stories about medical institutions; they offer considerable insight into the communities in which they were situated and with which they intersected.
Communities and Isolation
John Henderson ‘More Feared than Death Itself ’?*1 Isolation Hospitals and Plague in Seventeenth-Century Florence Introduction The role of quarantine measures and isolation have long been recognised by historians as key elements of public health campaigns in tackling epi- demic disease in the past. They have also been seen as central to the dis- appearance of plague from Western Europe in the early modern period.2 Contemporaries saw these measures as central to a community’s campaign against plague, with the central feature in southern Europe being the estab- lishment of a large Lazaretto or isolation hospital. These institutions had evolved first in the city-states of Renaissance Italy. It is, therefore, little wonder that the Italian physician to Queen Elizabeth I of England, Cesare Adelmare, should have stated in his advice to the Privy Council in 1563 that ‘good [plague] orders have never been implemented successfully without a place to which to send the infected’.3 1 A. Righi, Historia contagiosi morbi qui Florentiniam popolatus fuit anno 1630 (Florence, 1633), pp. 147–8. This article serves as an introduction to this topic which will be explored much further in my forthcoming book, Death in Florence and I am grateful to Yale University Press for allowing me to publish this material here. I should also like to thank both the Economic and Social Research Council and the Wellcome Trust for financial support for this project, which was begun at the Centre for Metropolitan History, University of London. 2 See J.N. Biraben, Les hommes...
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