Global Plagues in Renaissance Florence: a three-week Summer Course (2022) at Villa Le Balze, Georgetown University in Fiesole (Italy)

Elena Brizio's picture
Summer Program
June 28, 2022 to July 18, 2022
Subject Fields: 
European History / Studies, Health and Health Care, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Italian History / Studies, Public Health

This three-weeks class presents both micro and macro histories of plague. On the one hand, you will learn about and visit multiple plague sites in Tuscany, private and public spaces (like hospitals, foundling homes, churches) constructed to help contemporaries cope with the disease and medieval and early modern art that conveys the magnitude of the mortality Italians witnessed firsthand. Florence in particular is used as an 'open book' on the premodern plague experience. Key plague sites are also visited in Lucca, Pisa, Prato, and Siena. Yet, on the other hand, the Black Death is presented not as an Italian or European disaster but as an Afro-Eurasian catastrophe. You will be introduced to plausible evidence of late medieval and early modern demographic ruin from regions as disparate as East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Greenland.

This course is thus deeply multidisciplinary. It is at once a history, biology, literature, and art history class. You will be introduced to the written and architectural sources for plague as well as to the evolutionary biology of Yersinia pestis, the bioarcheology and detection of pre-laboratory disease, and the methods of the paleopathologic and paleogenetic sciences. In other words, you will come face-to-face with the urban fabric of premodern public health, the written record of mass death, and the bones of medieval plague victims. 

The course welcomes non-Georgetown students!

Application deadline: February 15, 2022

Inquiries can be addressed at:


Contact Info: 

Samuel Yocca, Global Education Adviser for Villa Le Balze, Georgetown University

Contact Email: