The Invention of the Quarantine 😷

The Invention of the Quarantine 😷

When times get tough, the tough get, well, blogging. So here we go.

With the possible exception of the luxury facility in the Maldives, the place we’d most like to be quarantined is Dubrovnik. Might as well go to the place that invented the concept, right?

The story starts in the mid-1300’s during the bubonic plague that killed half of Europe's population and, according to some experts, reduced economic activity so much that it brought on the Little Ice Age.  As the plague-causing bacteria made its way west along the Silk Road, the city-state of Dubrovnik had to find a response and protect its existence which depended on trade. In 1377, the city council came up with an idea and issued a decree that anyone coming from abroad had to be confined to one of the nearby islands before entering the city.

The first version called for a 30-day period of isolation, a "trentine" if you will. Unfortunately the bubonic plague had a 37-day duration from infection to death, so the first prototype had to be adjusted. But once the Ragusans extended the period to 40 days the quarantine was born, owing its name to the word "quaranto" meaning forty.

The system was highly effective and the city-state continued to prosper for another 430 years, but not without strict enforcement. If you think stay-at-home notices are bad, check out the story of Andrija the barber who had the unfortunate distinction of bringing back the plague from Ancona during a repeat outbreak in 1527.

So please stay safe and, if you'd like, pick up some pantry essentials for your own self-isolation.


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