In seventeenth Century, why did the British conquer the plague by hanging? Why did it lie flat?

alopah Date:2021-09-13 14:56:01
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More than half a month ago, under the deteriorating situation of the third wave of epidemic, the British government still insisted on canceling most epidemic prevention restrictions in England and announced the “unsealing” of society. At that time, many infectious diseases and public health experts accused the British government of being irresponsible.


Many people were worried that this unsealing action would completely control the British epidemic. However, to everyone’s surprise, the new cases in the UK have shown an obvious downward trend since the “opening day”. According to Oxford University’s our world in data, on August 5, the seven day moving average of the number of new cases in a single day was 25971, down nearly 45% from the high level on July 21.


As an important part of the national emergency system, epidemic prevention countermeasures are the product of medical technology, power system and concept culture in a specific period. In the early modern times (16th ~ 17th century), the plague was rampant in Western Europe. In order to prevent and control the epidemic, countries have formulated different emergency countermeasures, but the differences in political structure, cultural concept and economic level make the content and mode of countermeasures very different. As a country with the largest prevention and control in Western Europe and the earliest plague subsiding in the west, its epidemic prevention strategy has certain representativeness.


Severity of isolation

Compared with other European countries in the same period, British isolation measures are strict and ruthless. In order to prevent the spread of the epidemic, the British government implemented severe medical isolation for sick families on the basis of learning from the experience of other countries. Not only the patient, but also his family were isolated; During the isolation period, the government forbids visitors; In order to prevent them from escaping, the government sent special personnel to closely monitor them and no one is allowed to approach them; Once someone escapes, the government will punish him severely.


In 1604, the parliament decree authorized the supervisor to close the doors and windows of isolated families by violence; Anyone with ulcers wandering in the street will be punished for a felony or hanged if found to be serious; Anyone who dares to go out in the epidemic area will be punished as vagrancy, and plague related cases will also be prosecuted as felony.


From the perspective of traditional ethics, this practice is obviously contrary to God’s teaching of fraternity, loses the friendship between Christians and is ruthless, which has been greatly responded by the society. Someone wrote in the poem: “visiting a sick friend becomes a mistake, and fraternity becomes a sin. When God let some people die of the plague, people are full of coldness… Illness is disturbing, and we worry that there are fewer and fewer friends around us.” strict isolation of the sick family has become a prominent feature of modern British epidemic prevention policy.


In lowland countries, the authorities allow relatives and friends to visit and visit isolated families out of consideration of traditional ethics and spiritual comfort; If necessary, the isolated personnel can also come out for activities, but they need to wear obvious signs. But in Britain, visits are not allowed, and those who do not listen to persuasion will be severely punished. Many people regard isolation as the punishment of the government. They often resist it, but they are often punished by the government.


In early 1637, shoemaker John cleck refused to accept isolation, and the magistrate took coercive measures against himself and his family; Thomas Parker, a Westminster patrol policeman, was severely punished by the court for lifting the isolation restrictions without authorization, resulting in the escape of patients; Guards William foxwade and Edith fulat were charged by the jury for accepting bribes and failing to isolate the infected family. Segregation has been criticized by some religious scholars, who say that it is contrary to God’s universal love and education, and even hinders the development of production, resulting in the spread of epidemic diseases among family members and many family tragedies.


In 1625, George witts expressed his views on government coercive measures in a resentful tone: “The orders of the Privy Council will be implemented soon, some of which are pushed by the army. A small team of soldiers are sent to duty. If they are found to be infected with the disease, they will be isolated in a specific ward. The isolation time is very long, but it will mean that he will disappear from public view and will be imprisoned in his home day and night.” Parish literature shows that forced isolation caused the death of many family members, and such funerals account for about 1 / 3 ~ 2 / 3 of the total number of parishes. Under the painful lessons and social pressure, the British government began to reduce the family isolation plan in the 1830s and instead built a special epidemic shelter to isolate and treat patients.




Britain’s strict isolation measures include both public health considerations and the purpose of punishing deviants. Plagues occur frequently, causing great damage to the social economy, causing serious panic to the people’s psychology, and then impacting the normal social order. However, if no coercive measures are taken and people are allowed to enter and leave freely, the epidemic will expand and the consequences will be unimaginable The government can only prevent and control the epidemic situation through strict isolation when the law can accurately judge the sick people.


However, isolation has the risk of expansion, which has been transformed into a punishment measure in practice. Not only the infected people have been isolated in the name of epidemic prevention, but also the healthy vagrants have been restricted and punished. In the special context of plague, isolation has exceeded the original functional connotation It has become a means of social regulation and an important tool for the British government to crack down on deviants.


Foucault has discussed the social regulation function of medicine, and the scholar Elvin Zola has also pointed out incisively: “These judgments are not based on virtue or legality, but in the name of health. In addition, it is not through the political power role that doctors can control or influence, but mainly the potential and non dramatic phenomenon completed by ‘medicalization’ in daily life, through practicing medicine and labeling the relevant growing population with ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’.” In the name of epidemic prevention, the government should not only regulate the sick, but also crack down on the floating poor (“refugees”).


In the 16th century, Britain’s population increased rapidly, the process of urbanization accelerated, and population mobility was frequent. Among the huge floating population, many were poor people with families. They lost land resources or their original means of livelihood due to land enclosure, unemployment, natural and man-made disasters, closure of monasteries and economic differentiation. The number of refugees was large and the range of mobility was wide , has made it


The 16th century was a serious social problem in Britain. Vagrancy not only exacerbated the spread of the epidemic, but also posed a great threat to the existing hierarchical order. When the frequent migration of an individual became a real way of life, it indicated that he would completely break away from the existing world.


He broke the social order and became a frightening carrier of dissimilarity. He broke away from the chain of social hierarchy, Being a “helpless person” does not belong to any social group. Their existence is not only a blatant violation of God’s divine law, but also a serious challenge to social order. In the name of epidemic prevention and isolation, the government took the opportunity to strengthen its control over these people.


Comprehensiveness of measures

British epidemic prevention measures have comprehensive characteristics. They come not only from European epidemic prevention experience, but also from local long-term epidemic prevention practice, but also from doctors’ professional suggestions. They are the crystallization of various experience and wisdom. The diversity and comprehensiveness of the sources of measures make them both theoretical guidance and technical operability in the process of implementation.


Most of the British epidemic prevention measures come from the experience of continental European countries, such as the certification of the dead, the appointment of inspectors, the control of funeral time and family isolation, which all come from the experience of dealing with infectious diseases in Europe.


Although the plague broke out frequently, the British government responded slowly to the epidemic. Before Queen Elizabeth, the central government did not have the energy to deal with the epidemic because of deep civil strife and consolidation of power. The leadership of epidemic prevention fell into the hands of local governments. They went their own way, carried out epidemic prevention work in a decentralized manner, and lacked necessary coordination, which seriously affected the effectiveness of epidemic prevention.


In the process of accepting and reflecting on the experience of European epidemic prevention, local governments found the loopholes, and they made up the loopholes at the technical level in combination with the local actual situation. For example, in order to raise the cost of isolation personnel, Yorkshire decided to impose taxes on the people in 1538 and changed the method of voluntary payment; in order to ensure the actual effect of isolation, Cambridge, Salisbury and other places began to treat epidemic patients in 1574 In order to make the epidemic prevention work authoritative and standardized, Chester, hull and medstone have specially formulated epidemic prevention regulations to guide the epidemic work.


As professionals, doctors have also made great contributions to the formulation and implementation of epidemic prevention countermeasures in Britain. Due to the advanced medicine in Italy, the Netherlands and other countries, many doctors in Britain go to the European continent to study. After graduation, they bring back the rich and advanced epidemic prevention experience and theories to the UK to promote the improvement of epidemic prevention level in the UK; due to the tolerant social atmosphere and favorable policies, the UK welcomes immigrants These people not only bring advanced production technology and capital, but also bring advanced European medical technology and theory to Britain; more importantly, many doctors have long served as king’s royal doctor and urban health consultant because of their superb medical skills and high social status, so they can participate in the formulation of epidemic prevention countermeasures.


Under the impetus of the doctors’ Association, the British royal family set up a national public health guidance center at Oxford University to provide medical advice for national epidemic prevention and disaster reduction. With the suggestions of the king’s royal doctor Huguenot Sandor mairney, Queen Elizabeth issued the Encyclopedia of decrees and strengthened isolation and assistance to the poor.


In 1631, Dr. yerni, who proposed that the government should control food supply and expel Irish refugees to ensure public health, was put into the Royal act. In early modern London, the medical profession played an important role in preventing and controlling plague in London. Their medical level is the key to plague prevention and treatment, and directly determines the way of dealing with infectious diseases in society.


On the basis of reference, absorption and continuous improvement, Britain formulated epidemic prevention countermeasures in line with its own characteristics. The countermeasures combined epidemic early warning, isolation and prevention and control, rescue and health quarantine, forming a more systematic and scientific epidemic prevention system in Europe at that time; the system widely connected the central and local governments, the state and society, officials and the people, and cooperated under the goal of maintaining order Together, the United Kingdom is committed to epidemic prevention and disaster reduction. Although the British epidemic prevention strategy can not completely eradicate the disease, it has accelerated the extinction of the plague in the UK, thus creating favorable conditions for modern Britain to embark on the road of industrial revolution.

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