Expelling the Plague: The Health Office and the Implementation of Quarantine in Dubrovnik, 1377-1533

Expelling the Plague: The Health Office and the Implementation of Quarantine in Dubrovnik, 1377-1533

by Zlata Blazina Tomic, Vesna Blazina


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A vibrant city-state on the Adriatic sea, Dubrovnik, also known as Ragusa, was a hub for the international trade between Europe and the Ottoman Empire. As a result, the city suffered frequent outbreaks of plague. Through a comprehensive analysis of these epidemics in Dubrovnik, Expelling the Plague explores the increasingly sophisticated plague control regulations that were adopted by the city and implemented by its health officials. In 1377, Dubrovnik became the first city in the world to develop and implement quarantine legislation, and in 1390 it established the earliest recorded permanent Health Office. The city?s preoccupation with plague control and the powers granted to its Health Office led to a rich archival record chronicling the city?s experience of plague, its attempts to safeguard public health, and the social effects of its practices of quarantine, prosecution, and punishment. These sources form the foundation of the authors' analysis, in particular the manuscript Libro deli Signori Chazamorbi, 1500-30, a rare health record of the 1526-27 calamitous plague epidemic. Teeming with real people across the spectrum, including gravediggers, laundresses, and plague survivors, it contains the testimonies collected during trial proceedings conducted by health officials against violators of public health regulations. Outlining the contributions of Dubrovnik in conceiving and establishing early public health measures in Europe, Expelling the Plague reveals how health concerns of the past greatly resemble contemporary anxieties about battling epidemics such as SARS, avian flu, and the Ebola virus.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780773545403
Publisher: McGill-Queens University Press
Publication date: 04/17/2015
Series: McGill-Queen's Associated Medical Services Studies in the History of Medicine, H Series , #43
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Zlata Blazina Tomic is a medical historian who worked at McGill University?s Osler Library. Vesna Blazina is a translator and librarian who worked at the Université de Montréal.

Table of Contents

Figures and Tables xi

A Note on Names xv

A Note on the Pronunciation of Croatian Names xvii

A Note on Money, Weights, Measures, and Prices xix

Acknowledgments xxi

Introduction 3

1 History of Dubrovnik 8

2 The Plague Phenomenon and Plague Epidemics in Dubrovnik 42

3 Health Culture; Pharmacies, Hospitals, Physicians, and Surgeons 68

4 Founding and Development of the Health Office, 1390-1482 105

5 Control of Arrivals in Dubrovnik, 1500-1530 138

6 The Disastrous Plague Epidemic of 1526-27 162

7 Plague Survivors as Plague Workers 183

8 The Health Officials and the Patricians 198

9 Concealing Symptoms of Plague, Importing Suspicious Goods, and Other Offences 213

Conclusion 229


The State Archives of Dubrovnik 241

Diversis on the Import and Export Trade in Dubrovnik 246

The Testament of Angelo de Leticia 248

Notes 261

References 317

Index 347

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