Responses. Rulers and Subjects in Early Modern Epidemics - CfP - RSA 2022

Geltrude Macrì's picture
Call for Papers
August 4, 2021
Ireland {Republic}
Subject Fields: 
Early Modern History and Period Studies, Social History / Studies, Public Health

Resilience and adaptation to emergencies and shocks are central themes today. Reflection on the past and reconsideration of the ways in which different human groups in their complexity were able to act in difficult times help us to analyse our present and future reactions. Today, as then, under the pressure of epidemics and food crises societies transformed their sociality. Early modern people found themselves alone in front of voids that were not only demographic but also social, economic, and moral, constraining public spaces, movement, religious rites, cultural activities, economic exchanges, and the entire life. 

Epidemics offer an important point of view. Today, as then, political authorities have to adopt emergency rules and procedures and people have to act - and react - within exceptional circumstances. Early modern societies put in place several responses to epidemics, adapting reactions to contexts and managing frequent conflicts. While accelerating the birth of public health institutions, epidemics altered the existing arrangements among the various institutional bodies of early modern states. The relations between governments and communities often experienced tensions and conflicts, calling into question established rights, law and order, market mechanisms, and the mere survival of people. However, if the causes and the demographic consequences of epidemics have led to a significant group of studies, we know very little about reactions of early modern societies to these events, and about the reactions societies put in place. 

In planning one/two panel/s at the Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, to be held in Dublin in 2022, we invite contributions aiming to analyze the institutional and social response to early modern epidemics, focusing in particular on how this response was perceived or imposed in the two-way relation between subjects and rulers. Does the response to the emergency create different taxonomies within society? How do people respond? Is this response individual, or at a community level? What kind of changes do they bring about in society? What kind of memory does a shock leave? 

Topics include (but are not limited to): 

  • The transformation of sociality
  • The role of decision makers
  • The reactions of the various actors within a society and the presence of resilience, resistances, conflicts 
  • Change and conflict
  • Change and memory

Proposals should be submitted by 4 August, 2021 to Isabella Cecchini (, Idamaria Fusco ( and Geltrude Macrì (
Please include your full name with (eventual) current affiliation, the paper title (15-word maximum), an abstract (150-word maximum), your PhD completion date (past or expected), and a short curriculum vitae (150-word maximum).

Contact Info: 

Geltrude Macrì, CNR- ISEM (Cagliari-Rome-Milan)

Contact Email: