This article offers a reexamination of the impact of bubonic plague epidemics, using sixteenth-century Seville as a case study. It argues that municipal health officials did not simply shut down the city in times of plague, but successfully negotiated a balance between medical concerns and economic interests. While officials enacted a traditional regimen of public health measures, such as travel bans and quarantines, they also maintained open lines of communication with residents and continually allowed individual exemptions from plague restrictions. Such exemptions empowered residents, allowed trade to continue, and dissipated popular resistance. Redefining public health to more broadly include the overall well-being of the community, this article finds that Seville's health officials successfully maintained public health by balancing the needs of the individual and the community.


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pp. 335-358
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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