The Commune and Pestilence: Plague in Castile in the Late Sixteenth Century


ACLS Fellowship Program


When plague moved through Spain at the end of the sixteenth century, people responded not only with panic or religious excess, as is often recorded, but also according to the dictates of good government, the common good, and solidarity. This study, based on municipal records, royal missives, and lawsuits, views catastrophe within the framework of political practice and theory, whose vocabulary was widely familiar to everyone. It depicts both sacrifice and subterfuge, as competing needs were balanced. It explores the moral and political choices communities made, the chronology and memories they created, and the language and tropes they used. It addresses fear, courage, news, faith, lies, and economic gain. It treats plague broadly, both geographically and conceptually, and aims to further our understanding of early modern Castile through common people’s response to disaster.