Dread the Grim Reaper: Early Warning Strategies as a Means of Plague Prevention: Hospitaller Malta’s Fight Against Contagion
By Ivan Grech
Journal of Maltese History, Vol.3:2 (2013)
Abstract: Plague brought social disruption and physical devastation on a large scale in pre-industrial society. This study provides an overview of the occurrence and socio-economic impact on society of the pestilence in the Mediterranean world and beyond from Antiquity up to the nineteenth century, with considerations on recent historiographical trends regarding the analysis of the outbreak and spread of the phenomenon based on a multi-disciplinary approach. Aspects discussed in the paper are the biological origins of the disease, how it spread across territories along trading and maritime routes, and the different religious approaches to the epidemic.
The paper makes special reference to the fight against plague from within an island context in early modernity, with special reference to Hospitaller Malta (1530-1798). Focusing on seventeenth-century Malta in particular, the paper analyses the collaborative efforts between Mediterranean maritime centres for mutual alarm regarding possible contagion, and Malta’s early warning system based on an international contact network which helped the Knights Hospitallers and the islanders they governed in their attempts to prevent plague.
Top Image: Map of Malta and Gozo in 1748 published by Gilles Robert de Vaugondy