Dr. Aneliya Stoyanova
Institute for Historical Studies at the
Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (Bulgaria)
Abstract. The Black Death from the mid-14th century initiated a long series of recurrences of the disease with significant effects on the affected human societies. The current article explores the awareness of the plague epidemics and the experiences made by the Habsburg diplomatic representatives in Istanbul from the mid-1560s to the early 1590s. In the early modern Ottoman empire plague was a persistent and disturbing part of life, recurring at unpredictable intervals and affecting all levels of society. The studied correspondences demonstrate the common measures the diplomats took to protect themselves and their servants in times of plague outbreaks. The letters contain sporadic descriptions of various diseases. Besides the recurring plague epidemics, the diplomats mention and describe other illnesses which also caused fevers and were recognized as highly contagious but seem to be distinguished from the plague. The epidemiological experience of the residents in Istanbul is worthy of scholarly attention since the disease descriptions preserved in diplomatic letters could play a supplementary role in the establishment of a detailed plague chronology of the Ottoman capital.
Keywords: Early modern diplomacy; Habsburg-Ottoman relations; plague epidemics; history of infectious diseases