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Journal Article

La malaria nella storia demografica ed economica d'Italia: Primi lineamenti di una ricerca

Franco Bonelli
Studi Storici
Anno 7, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1966), pp. 659-687
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20562836
Page Count: 30
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
La malaria nella storia demografica ed economica d'Italia: Primi lineamenti di una ricerca
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Abstract

The author considers the part played by malaria in the history of Italy from the point of view of modern economic historiography, in particular the studies of demographic history and the contributions of historians to the analysis of the processes of progressive under-development which has occurred in certain areas. After indicating some problems connected with the search for an interpretation of the data and the "qualitative" meaning to be given to the phenomenom, he points out some demographic consequences of the disease and suggests that there is every justification for classifying "mortality from malaria" separately from "ordinary" mortality and "extraordinary" mortality due to epidemics, as these were manifested in pre-industrial societies (para 1-8). Moreover Bonelli poses the problem (para. 10) of research into the centuries--old tendency of the disease to expand or contract, in connexion with economic and demographic vicissitudes and he also points out certain natural and economic and social factors which can well have influenced variations in the gravity of malaria. A final series of observations concerns the situations created in given regions, when malaria was so widespread as to have had a very strong influence on concentrations, the development of the population and the use of resources. Malaria in this sense acted as a "cumulative" factor. In large areas of Italy, due to the presence of malaria in the plains and in the lowlands alongside the rivers, for some centuries, from on the hills and the mountains a very dense and growing population condemned the land to irrational exploitation and to the impoverishment of the earth. The more the malaria mosquito spread the more man fled from the low regions, where disorder in the water systems increased, made worse by the impoverishment of the earth and the mountains. The absence of man in the marshlands facilitated the progress of malaria. For some centuries "dualistic" tendencies were manifested in the demographic and agricultural evolution of the "healthy" zones and the "malarial" zones, due to the conditions in which production was carried on (para. 11). The economic factor constituted by malaria can, for various reasons, contribute to the explanation of the manifold aspects of a centuries-old tendency and the consequences that can result over a short or a long period. The history of agriculture is the most directly concerned sector as regards the results of research aimed at isolating and illustrating the phenomenom. As regards the various directions which such research can take, the author clarifies certain elements, as a hypothesis for future work. He mentions for example, how in the Lazio the population, after having taken refuge in centres of varying sizes in the hill and mountain areas, met obstacles to its development above all in the malarial zones.

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