Jane Stevens Crawshaw has published “The Beasts of Burial: Pizzigamorti and Public Health for the Plague in Early Modern Venice” in Social History of Medicine.
Desolate streets, disused shops and distraught sufferers were hallmarks of plague-infected cities. Against this backdrop of devastation, one group of workers appeared to stand out from the crowd: the city’s pizzigamorti (body clearers). The pizzigamorti were resented as enforcers of public health bureaucracy and as individuals who seemed to be exempt from quarantine restrictions and the economic strain of outbreaks. This article explores the subversive and violent metaphors used to describe these workers, which included carnival and wild animals. Although the pizzigamorti were not thought of as dishonourable, the descriptions applied to the workers were informed both by a general vocabulary of dangerous social groups and a specific Venetian dialect shaped by the context of the plague.