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The Rise and fall of syphilis in Renaissance Europe

Tognotti, Eugenia (2009) The Rise and fall of syphilis in Renaissance Europe. Journal of Medical Humanities, Vol. 30 (2), p. 99-113. eISSN 1573-3645 . Article.

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DOI: 10.1007/s10912-009-9079-3

Abstract

The rapid changes that syphilis underwent after the first major outbreak that occurred in Naples in the mid-1490s are believed to constitute the first well-documented example of a human disease. The new plague was of exceptional virulence, highly contagious and causing severe ulceration at the site of infection. According to medical and other historical sources, the ‘genius epidemics’ changed some years after this onset, and a slower-progressing form of syphilis seems to have replaced the initial severe form, as do many virulent epidemic infectious diseases that appear in devastating forms in a previously uninfected population. But what exactly were the features of the disease at the moment of its appearance in Europe at the end of the fifteenth century? How many years did it take for the early, virulent form to be replaced and become endemic? What was the pace of these changes through the decades following the onset of the epidemic? In this essay, I review these issues through an analysis of a large number of chronologically-ordered primary historical sources.

Item Type:Article
ID Code:2781
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords:Syphilis, venereal diseases, history, Renaissance Europe, medical knowledge
Subjects:Area 06 - Scienze mediche > MED/02 Storia della medicina
Divisions:001 Università di Sassari > 01 Dipartimenti > Storia
Publisher:Springer Netherlands
eISSN:1573-3645
Deposited On:20 Aug 2009 12:46

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