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The hunt for a scapegoat during an ancient pandemic

Borrini, M (2021) The hunt for a scapegoat during an ancient pandemic. Archivio Per l'antropologia e la Etnologia, 151. ISSN 0373-3009

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In the «History of the Infamous Column», Alessandro Manzoni recounts the trial against two alleged plague-spreaders held responsible for the pestilential contagion during the outbreak of bubonic plague that struck the north of Italy. Between 1629 and 1631. After being accused by Caterina Rosa, health commissioner Guglielmo Piazza was accused of anointing walls with a dark substance to spread the pandemic. After police misinterpretation of alleged evidence and use of torture, Piazza indicated the local barber Giangiacomo Mora as the person who provided him with the poisonous substance. The trial continued with the same disregard for objective evidence and the truth. Still, with the support of torture, the inquisitors made both Piazza and Mora confess the non-existent guilt and pointed against five alleged accomplices in a groundless attempt to save their lives. The execution was carried out on the 2nd of August 1630; a pillar was erected in place of Mora’s houseas an enduring memory of the castigation for those spreading pandemics. Manzoni’s work demonstrates the atrocious mistake perpetrated by those who abuse their power, acting against any form of human common sense and driven by fear. With a modern scientific and forensic eye, it is possible to analyze how the distress for an unknown pandemic led to the birth of superstitions and how an unfair trial can result from the interference of a social environment in investigation and judgment.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 1601 Anthropology
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: Biological & Environmental Sciences (from Sep 19)
Publisher: Società italiana di antropologia e etnologia
Date Deposited: 04 Jan 2022 11:58
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2022 12:00
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/15961
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