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Black Death, Bologna, demography, Italy


The Black Death of 1348 has fascinated readers and scholars for centuries. In this century it has been the subject of innumerable debates. Historians have argued back and forth about the demographic effects of the plague, about whether or not it instigated a period of economic depression, or even whether it represented a major event in history. Similarly, disagreement has raged, both inside and outside of the historical discipline, about the medical history and epidemiology of the plague. Fewer studies, however, have focused on the more immediate effects of the plague in localized areas. These scholars have attempted to uncover the actions and reactions of people undergoing this remarkable disaster. They have tried to discover how medieval people reacted to something for which their knowledge of the past and of science could not prepare them. Italian towns have proved important and fertile ground for such case studies due to the richness of their archival sources and chronicles. In this article I will offer a new contribution to this tradition of the study of the plague in Italian towns with an examination of the experience of the Black Death in Bologna.