Plague in Palermo in 1575 and Social Control


  • Renato Malta Department of Biopathology and Medical Biotechnology, University of Palermo, I
  • Alfredo Salerno Professor Emeritus, University of Palermo, I


Social Control, Health


 The work moves from the low mortality of the plague of Palermo in 1575 -1576 in comparison to similar outbreaks and contemporary analysis of the activity of Ingrassia, a man that the city government had wanted at his side. The extraordinary health interventions, including those to favor of the predisposition of health building to isolation, gears for a more wide-ranging than the traditional one. The isolation adopted by Ingrassia wasn’t a novelty because it was already in use half a century earlier, as the Previdelli wrote. We assume that the population in crisis, hungry and out of work for the huge military expenditure of king Philip II, would have prompted the City government to use the outbreak for the purposes of «social control». At the same goal always answered in the sixteenth century the establishment of the parish, created to divide the territory in order to guide and control the practice of the faith of the people. Ingrassia, a man next to political power, which in turn welded with the spiritual power in order to implement the Catholic Counter-Reformation, justified the coercive initiatives towards the population. The practice of medicine, as still happens today, is affected by the conditions of the policy, raising one of the fundamental principles of bioethics, the question of the independence of the doctor: a physician divided by the duty to represent the legitimate interests of the patient and those of political power, perhaps not always shared. It is a new interpretation of the activity of Ingrassia and his «true» results than the plague.