Epidemics and pandemics in the history of humankind and how governments dealt with them: A review from the Bronze Age to the Early Modern Age

Michael E. Habicht, F. Donald Pate, Elena Varotto, Francesco M. Galassi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This review offers an overview of several devastating historical epidemics and pandemics. The first pandemic ravaging the Middle East and Ancient Egypt was an unidentified “plague” in the late Bronze Age. The plague of Athens was apparently “only” a local epidemic but with fatal consequences for that ancient democracy. Great empires with well-developed trade routes seem to be very susceptible to rapid and devastating spreads as the Antonine Plague, the Plague of Cyprian and the Justinian Plague testify. The great Medieval plague wave in Europe was absolutely devastating, but for the first time it brought along with it substantial containment measures that are still being successfully used today (e.g. isolation, quarantine) as well as the seeds of the development of a new form of medical theory and practice. The blame game that can be observed in the current COVID-19 pandemic has also been seen in previous epidemics and pandemics. Particularly in the case of syphilis, its origin was often attributed to foreign countries. Finally, the paper comparatively stresses the historical importance of an early implementation of a lockdown-based approach as an effective form of controlling epidemic spreads.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages32
JournalRivista Trimestrale di Scienza dell’Amministrazione: Studi di Teoria e Ricerca Sociale
Volume2020
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

The Journal applies the Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported) to all published papers.

Keywords

  • plague
  • smallpox
  • Ebola
  • syphilis
  • genetics
  • COVID-19

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