chapter  3
9 Pages

Languages of plague in early modern France

ByColin Jones

This chapter explores a different approach, which runs largely counter to historical practice in plague studies. It suggests that writings on plague in the early modern period, which historians are generally prone to plunder indiscriminately in their quest to determine what actually happened in plague epidemics, often had an internal consistency and a rhetorical structure. It argues that historians of plague have tended to underestimate the importance of the languages used about plague in shaping reactions not only to the disease but also to a whole array of problems perceived to be linked to or analogous to it. The chapter discusses that people should be far more cautious about accepting at face value the languages of plague; but that on the other we should be more open to the permeation of those languages in the wider society. It focuses on early modern France, but there is every reason for thinking that the approach may be replicated for other societies.