The mysterious case of dance mania that broke out in Medieval Europe

St. John’s Dance, known historically as St. Vitus Dance, was a social phenomenon involving a type of dance mania that gripped mainland Europe between the 14 th and 17 th centuries. On this day, June 24 1374, just several decades after the Black Death swept across Europe, one of the most well-known major outbreaks of dance mania in Medieval Europe broke out in the German city of Aachen, even if it spread to Liege, Utrecht, Tongres and other towns up and down the Rhine. What was the problem? Afflicted individuals…

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The curious history of the Milan area that remained immune to the plague: an eccentric marquis, a witch or simply coal?

Before 1630 Milan had over one hundred thousand inhabitants. In 1632 there were forty-seven thousand. In the middle there was the most violent plague epidemic in the history of the city. In the peak period, the so-called “black death” killed nearly 1000 people a day. The Italian Plague of 1629–1631 was a series of outbreaks of bubonic plague which ravaged northern and central Italy. Often referred to as the Great Plague of Milan, it claimed possibly one million lives, or about 25% of the population. Historically, it seems that German…

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Spanish Flu: the deadliest epidemic in human history

From 1918 to 1920, a strain of influenza known as Spanish flu caused a global pandemic, spreading rapidly and killing indiscriminately young, old, sick and otherwise-healthy people, and at least 10% of patients died. Estimates vary on the exact number of deaths caused by the disease, but it is thought to have infected a third of the world’s population and it caused a never seen number of dead: from 50 to 100 million people died in just over a year. The greatest historical cause that led to such a number…

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The remarkable story of Eyam’s self-quarantine in the 17th century

November 1st 1666, All Saints Day. The plague takes away its latest victim in the remote village of Eyam, England. One of the many deaths from the Great Plague of 1665/66, but not only. Because this twenty-year-old boy, the last of the 260 people in the village taken away from the disease, perhaps he would have had a chance to save himself, like others, if he had not accepted a very difficult but sensible decision, made approximately four months earlier from all the inhabitants of Eyam. From 1665 to 1666,…

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