Historically, plagues have not only been disruptive and destructive, but also opportunities that inspired reflection and discovery.   A few years after the Black Death devastated Italy, Giovanni Boccaccio created a scene of quiet retreat and reflection for his masterpiece, The Decameron.  His tales of romance offered an opportunity to retreat from the harsh realities of the plague and explore the heart and it's in a way that remains an inspiration to the present day.  The roots of a new religious individualism—born of personal encounters with Scripture, free of priestly interventions and correction—came to inform features of modern day personal Christian devotion.  Reflecting back on a time of plague in his native Milan, Alessandro Manzoni's The Betrothed explored the whole range of human responses that sometimes lie unobserved in normal times: hatred and suspicion, but also love and creativity. And many know how the young Isaac Newton left his college at Cambridge and turned his time of isolation into a seminal moment in the development of physics.   

Thomas Robisheaux

Professor of History

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