In our ninth episode, Dr. Jane Stevens Crawshaw guides our reading of Rocco Benedetti’s Accounts of some events taking place in Venice during the plague years of 1576-1577. The text is a first-hand account of one of the most devastating plague outbreaks to strike Venice in the early modern period. Its author was a notary, one of the few people allowed to move freely across the city in order to record wills and provide other services to the citizenry. His account is both informative and haunting. How did Benedetti’s work as a notary shape his views on this terrible episode of Venetian history? What did he think about the local plague hospitals’ performance and the lockdown practices ordered by the government? Find out in today’s episode!

Not seeing people coming and going in the locked-down part of the city was something which was utterly horrifying.  For me, as a notary, who passed through the city to record wills, it made my hair stand on end to walk through places which were solitary and overgrown.  Sometimes, it was impossible to hold back the tears at the sight of such a wonderful city, celebrated across the world for its trade, so deserted. 

Rocco Benedetti, Relatione d’alcuni casi occorsi in Venetia al tempo della peste l’anno 1576 e 1577, extracts translated and provided by Dr. Stevens Crawshaw


Jane Stevens Crawshaw is Senior Lecturer in Early Modern European History at Oxford Brookes University.  She is a historian of health and the environment in Renaissance Italy.  Her first book was a study of the Venetian lazaretti.  Her second monograph will be published by Oxford University Press as Cleaning Up Renaissance Italy: Environmental Ideals and Urban Practice in Genoa and Venice’.

Further Readings

Jane Stevens Crawshaw, Plague hospitals: public health for the city in early modern Venice , Ashgate Publishing (2012).
—–, ‘The beasts of burial: Pizzigamorti and public health for the plague in early modern Venice’ Social History of Medicine 24 (3) (2011): pp. 570-587.
—–, ‘The Renaissance Invention of Quarantine’ Fifteenth Century Studies 22 (Special issue) (2013): pp. 161-174.
—–, ‘Families, medical secrets and public health in early modern Venice’ Renaissance Studies 28 (4) (2014): pp. 597-618.

Episode thumbnail – L’isole piv famose del mondo descritte e intagliate da Girolamo Porro. Con l’aggiunta di molte isole … / [Thomaso Porcacchi]… Credit: Wellcome CollectionAttribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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