Abstracts OH 21 (2020), No. 2

Miroslava Květová – Marie Tošnerová

Plague epidemics in Czech early modern towns as seen through the lens of narrative sources

The study follows the reflection of plague epidemics in Czech narrative sources of urban provenance from the early modern period. It is based on chroniclers’ reports, in which it is possible to discover the views of contemporary inhabitants of the cities on the tense moments in their lives represented by plague epidemics. It deals mainly with the question of how the plague was perceived in urban society and the degree of detail with which the atmosphere of the period is captured in the sources. Attention is also devoted to mentions of measures against the spread of the disease, care for the infected, the ways by which the plague was introduced into the city, data on the number of victims (which were mostly exaggerated by chroniclers), and the authors' approach to tragic events in the family.

Key words: plague, epidemics, cities, chronicles, narrative sources


Martin Scheutz

The Anger of God, Plague Lazarettes and Danube Islands. The Vienna plague of 1713 and the authorities

The plague of 1713, which was introduced to Central Europe via Transylvania and Hungary, was probably the result of the last great wave of plague in Europe (1701-1713), which reached as far as southern Germany. This plague epidemic illustrates that the central European cities, in association with the early modern state, probably protected themselves better than during the previous plague waves by improved quarantine management, a rigid plague regime (e.g. isolation from vagrant poverty) and improved „domestication“ of hospital services. The plague of 1713 clearly shows that the early modern state now played an increasingly important role in fighting the plague (compared to 1679) – this is clearly demonstrated by a wide publication of laws on plague by the Habsburg central administration. The fight against the plague is causally connected with the discourse of the authorities: City governments were then pleasing to God when no plague was raging within the city walls. Conversely, epidemics that had been overcome were resolved with thanksgiving ceremonies and thank processions in the sense of confessional prophylaxis by the town authorities. Saints, plague columns and votive churches reminded of successful crisis management by the authorities. The processing of fear and thanksgiving to God is not only evident in fraternities, but also in fossilized plague columns, which remind of the events of 1713.

key words: plague; Vienna; medical history; Matthias Fuhrmann; piety


Karel Černý

The beginnings of variolation against smallpox in Europe (1713-1721)

Smallpox epidemics ravaged the European population during the early modern period, with the number of victims being estimated in hundreds of thousands per year. This trend started to change at the beginning of the 18th century, when the earliest protective treatment (variolation) was introduced to Europe from the East. In the first part of my paper, I sum up major topics from the current historiography of variolation (e.g. relation to gender or politics), which until now have not been available to a Czech readership.

After that I focus on the propagation of knowledge about variolation. For this purpose, I present a collection of lesser-known sources from Central Europe, particularly those relating to the journal of the German academy Leopoldina and the Slovak (Hungarian) physician Jan Adam Reiman, which are often either ignored or misquoted. Finally, I come to the conclusion that the spread of variolation in Europe was not mediated exclusively through British sources, as it resulted from complex knowledge-sharing across various groups of individuals.

KEYWORDS: smallpox, variolation, early 18th century, Jan Adam Reiman, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, epidemics, prevention


Andreas Weigl

Cholera epidemics in Austrian cities in the 1830s

In 1831 the first European cholera epidemic hit most parts of Lower Austria hard. The traditional system of fighting plague epidemics based on advance warning, cordons sanitaire and quarantine proved to be ineffective in the case of cholera. Shocked by the sudden death of many cholera victims the imperial government tried to push forward investments in sewers and the water supply at least in the capital Vienna. Unfortunately these investments showed no improving effect on cholera morbidity and mortality in the 1830s, because the quality of filtered water from the river Danube that supplied the „Kaiser-Ferdinand-Wasserleitung“ build in 1836-1843 was inadequate and the new sewer-system, the so called Cholera-sewers, lacked functional capability in summer and during floods. Due to the fact that most of the cholera epidemics entered the Habsburg monarchy from the east or from the Adriatic sea, the inner Alpine provinces with the exception of South Tyrol remained almost untouched by cholera epidemics of that era. The east-west-gradient in mortality cannot be explained by any measures to improve the water supply or sewer system in these parts of Austria. Most households in cities of these provinces were supplied with drinking water by domestic wells and sanitation was dominated by cesspools, which was the case even in most parts of Vienna. What might explain the difference in mortality is the lower population density correlated with the better quality of water from the wells in the Alpine zone.

KEYWORDS: cholera epidemics, Alpine provinces, east-west-gradient, sanitary revolution, household wells


Markéta Skořepová

Cholera and baroque miracles: the epidemic of 1832 and the pilgrimage site of Křemešník

The article deals with the cholera epidemic of the 1830s in the Pelhřimov region, focusing mainly on its perception as a modern plague. Medical helplessness in the face of the new disease revived the popular conception of the epidemic as God's punishment, as well as confidence in miracles, which was incompatible with the educational discourse of the upper classes. Against the background of this faith, there was an unprecedented boom in the reputation of the pilgrimage site of Křemešník dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The popularity of the local miraculous water was reflected in the publication of several commercial prints, which constitute the main source for this study. The content of the prints responded to the demands of ordinary people who were their customers, reflecting their traditional values and perceptions of the world. At the same time, they were an effective way of promoting the pilgrimage site.

KEY WORDS: cholera, epidemic, commercial printing, pilgrimage sites, Křemešník


Vojtěch Kessler

„An evil guest arrived in the autumn“

Cholera in the war year 1866 in sources of a personal nature

Most of the contemporary texts dealing with the war year 1866 contain mentions of the course and consequences of the cholera epidemic brought to Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia by the Prussian army of occupation. In the sources we examined, certain thematic frameworks or figures were repeated, which can be summarized as follows: 1) Metaphorical names for cholera or its symptoms; 2) Speculation about the causes; 3) The causal connection between the epidemic and the Prussian army’s lack of moderation as regards diet; 4) Relationship with the social status of the infected (deceased); 5) Metaphorical designations for the spread of the epidemic in the given localities; 6) Previous "epidemics" of panic fear and anxiety; 7) Methods of prevention and treatment; 8) Lay notions of symptoms; 9) High mortality and its impact on church activities.

KEY WORDS: Prussian-Austrian War; cholera; contemporary sources; medicine; discursive analysis.


Kateřina Pražáková

An Assessment of the Bohemian Rebellion in a Pamphlet from the Winter of 1618/1619

The study analyses and makes available the pamphlet Pasquill von itzigem Zustandt deß Kriegswesens from 1618/1619, which has been preserved in a manuscript version in the collections of the Hauptstaatsarchiv Dresden. Most probably, together with other intelligence documents, it was delivered to the court of Elector Johann Georg I of Saxony, who took a strong interest in the development of the Bohemian. The author of the pamphlet provides a list of influential persons, power groups and countries which could fundamentally intervene in the conflict between the Habsburg rulers and the Bohemian Estates. In each case he added a comment describing the current position of the individual, his past and other plans. At the same time, he clearly sided with the Bohemian uprising, which he attempted to defend in the eyes of the undecided. He was therefore merciless in his criticism, especially in his discussion of various members of the Habsburg dynasty, their followers and troops. However, he also employed irony against certain insurgents who, in his opinion, were acting too harshly or prioritizing their own goals. His text therefore represents an extraordinary example of an ironic evaluation of the contemporary military and political situation by an educated and engaged person.

KEY WORDS: Czech Estates Uprising, news in the Thirty Years' War, lampoon, propaganda, edition, battle of Lomnice nad Lužnicí (Lomnitz an der Lainsitz), conquest of Pilsen (1618), Karel Bonaventura Buquoy