Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 November 2022
Chapter 2 explores reactions to the Plague of Provence in Italy with a focus on the port city of Genoa, considered by some to be “l’état le plus exposé,” or “the most exposed” to the threat of plague by its proximity to Marseilles. The chapter begins with a brief introduction to Genoa’s rich history of quarantine and public health. It then examines how a campaign of misinformation perpetuated by officials in Marseilles affected the reception of news about the plague outside of France. Claims that the disease was merely a malignant fever, or that the outbreak had ended (when it had not) caused confusion in the first months of the outbreak. Nevertheless, the inevitable truth that plague was in France began to arrive in cities across Europe via envoys, ambassadors, and especially via consuls, who reported back to their respective states from Provence. From there, word traveled rapidly as these accounts were copied in letters and printed in newspapers across Europe and the colonies, creating what I term an “invisible commonwealth” based in contemporary communication networks. The chapter then examines responses to the Provençal plague in Genoa and how they influenced, or were influenced by, Italian trade and diplomacy.