5 Hard-Earned Lessons from Pandemics of the Past

Sybil T. Mann

Humankind is resilient. While global pandemics like the Bubonic Plague and 1918 pandemic wreaked havoc on populations through the centuries, societies honed critical survival strategies. Here are five ways people adapted to life amid disease outbreaks.

1. Quarantine

A 14th-century Italian fresco of the plague, or Black Death, from the Stories of St Nicholas of Tolentino.

A 14th-century Italian fresco of the plague, or Black Death, from the Stories of St Nicholas of Tolentino.

The first quarantine was passed into law in the port city of Ragusa (today’s Dubrovnik) on July 27, 1377, during the Bubonic Plague, or Black Death. It stipulated: “Those who come from plague-infested areas shall not enter [Ragusa] or its district unless they spend a month on the islet of Mrkan or in the town of Cavtat, for the purpose of disinfection.” Doctors at the time observed that the spread of the Black Death could be slowed by isolating individuals.

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