Plagues and Renaissances

This painting by French artist Josse Lieferinxe depicts an intercession by St. Sebastian during an outbreak of the plague.

For a good time, see Ada Palmer, Ex Urbe, Black Death, COVID, and Why We Keep Telling the Myth of a Renaissance Golden Age and Bad Middle Ages. Warning: It’s kinda long by web standards, but well worth the read.

It begins:

“If the Black Death caused the Renaissance, will COVID also create a golden age?”

Versions of this question have been going around as people, trying to understand the present crisis, reach for history’s most famous pandemic. Using history to understand our present is a great impulse, but it means some of the false myths we tell about the Black Death and Renaissance are doing new damage, one of the most problematic in my view being the idea that sitting back and letting COVID kill will somehow by itself naturally make the economy turn around and enter a period of growth and rising wages.

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