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Can America Benefit from Covid? Ask 14th-Century Florence



The Covid pandemic has wreaked havoc on the U.S. economy. Around 33 million unemployment claims have been made, and hunger stalks millions more Americans—and that’s aside from the ravages from the disease itself.

Yet big disruptions can bring big opportunities. Thinkers have already been considering how the world could emerge better, or smarter, from the Covid plague. And there’s real historical precedent for this: The Italian Renaissance may have begun before the 14th-century plague known as the Black Death, but there’s a strong case the disease—in both its ravages and the social changes it enabled—helped accelerate its progress, especially in the city of Florence. For a time, Florence’s economy bounced back with remarkable social mobility, and it became Europe’s premier center of artistic, cultural and scientific creativity.

Can we really hope for the coronavirus to usher in a golden age of economic mobility, creativity, learning and artistic achievement? The story of Florence was recently the topic of a sweeping article making this argument. But the example of Florence, while encouraging in some ways, also suggests there are signs we are doing it wrong. The Florentine approach to the Black Death is a helpful model as the world looks to rebuild after Covid, and if we look closely, we can see it contains some warnings for us—and some lessons we are already missing.

In sheer numbers, the Black Death of 1348 was an unalloyed horror. The bubonic plague killed between 30 and 70 percent of Europeans, and left the survivors bereft. At the height of the plague, in 1349, the poetPetrarch wrote: “The life we lead is a sleep; whatever we do, dreams. Only death breaks the sleep and wakes us from dreaming. I wish I could have woken before this.” His son Giovanni survived that plague only to die during a recurrence in 1361.

The Europe that emerged afterward was different and, due to depopulation, offered new opportunities. Florence may be the clearest example where the plague led to a remarkable opening of the social system as wealthy families and institutions welcomed what were called “new men” into their families and their business guilds.

It helped that Florentine society had already been laying the groundwork for change. Before the plague of 1348, Florence had begun opening the city to gente nuove, non-aristocrats who relied on business for their fortunes rather than inherited agricultural holdings or old banking money. It also enjoyed unusual literacy. Early 14th-century Florence was filled with well-educated notaries, and even artisans. It was also, even before the plague, undergoing a disruption. The period from 1339 to 1349 has been called the “decade of disaster” in Florentine

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By: Jacob Soll
Title: Can America Benefit from Covid? Ask 14th-Century Florence
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Published Date: Sat, 25 Jul 2020 08:30:07 GMT



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LIVE: Trump Holds Campaign Rally in Duluth, Minnesota



(Sept. 30) Watch live as President Donald Trump delivers remarks at a Make America Great Again campaign rally in Duluth, Minnesota, on Wednesday, September 30, 2020.

Trump and Democrat Joe Biden delivered conflicting messages targeting voters across the Midwest on Wednesday as the candidates, their allies and rank-and-file voters sought to move past the most chaotic presidential debate in memory.

The Tuesday night affair raised fresh questions about Trump’s continued reluctance to condemn white supremacy, his efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the election and his unwillingness to respect debate ground rules his campaign had agreed to. Some Democrats called on Biden to skip the next two debates.

Biden’s campaign confirmed he would participate in the subsequent meetings, however, as did Trump’s.

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Donald Trump holds campaign rally in Duluth, Minnesota



US President Donald Trump holds a “Make America Great Again” event in Duluth, Minnesota.

The visit comes one day after the intense battle between the President and Joe Biden in the first of three debates set to go ahead.

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