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Analysis of the 16th century Czech printed literature about the plague shows clear links, both thematic and compositional, with the older tradition of the scholastic medical literature. Treatises about the plague are based on the sex res non naturales theoretical framework that was still applied in the 16th century. Towards the end of the century, however, the scheme starts to give way to lists of collective safety recommendations. This emphasis on collective security (of the town or the community) appears to be a new trend of the time, at least as far as literature on the plague is concerned. Medical doctors no longer focus on the risky life-style of individuals, but rather persuade the community to take measures preventing the spread of the disease. In this connection the work of Martin Repanský should be mentioned as one of the most progressive writings on the topic, influenced by the theory of contagion, according to which the plague is spread by small particles. The dialogue about the plague written by Jan z Bakova shows that religious authorities and medical doctors may have had conflicting views on the aetiology and prevention of the plague. Through one of his characters, a peasant, Jan z Bakova sharply criticizes the doctors and rejects their claim that the disease is infectious. This protest can be explained as a reaction to quarantine measures that precluded contact between believers and their pastors, including the holy communion. If the plague were not infectious, no such measures would be needed. The opposite standpoint is defended by Jan Kocin z Kocinétu who claims that the plague is one of many infectious diseases and its causes are natural.
In the last decades of the 18th century, physicians in Hungary and Transylvania emphasized direct contagion as the main way of plague transmission. The region with the common borders between Wallachia, Moldavia, Serbia and indirectly, with the Ottoman Empire was considered as a reservoir of plague. A. Chenot’s and F. Schraud’s most important contribution to knowledge and prophylaxis of plague was the recognition of the connection between movement of population and the transmission of the disease. Thus the medical discourse over contagion drew the attention to both preventive and policing methods in order to eradicate the epidemics. Medical police practices reveal the complex interplay among the economy, politics, and medicine. Moreover, the direct contagion theory suited the police regime developed by Francis I as a consequence of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. The experience of many epidemics legitimized the strengthening of a military cordon on the border as well as the introduction of draconian punishments, including the death penalty, the control of travellers, correspondence, and public meetings.
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