Issue of The Journal of Interdisciplinary History of Ideas

The JIHI publishes high-quality original works by scholars of different fields of specialization, based on interdisciplinary historical research. Its aim is to provide a publishing space for studies dealing with the history of ideas and intellectual history, broadly construed, from a genuinely interdisciplinary research perspective.

The call is mainly centered on the intersection of law history and history of medicine (with strong connections to the history of moral thought, as well as to the history of political thought and institutions), but the editors are open to other approaches to the historical crossing of disciplines.

The widespread intellectual efforts directed in times of plague to the analyses of causes, identification of prognostical signs, and devising means of prevision and prevention, have been studied at length—often with a focus on “recreational and hygienic arguments” (Olson, ‘From Plague to Pleasure’)—and are at present again the object of historiographic interest. Such efforts originated from different disciplinary fields in close interaction, and in many cases from individuals that had a cross-disciplinary profile.

In different strands of research, the issue of how in times of plague authorities—both political and medical—tended to formulate and enforce regulations among widespread frenzied responses has also been scrutinized. In order to check the pestilence, nations, small states, and cities would often resort to “elaborate police regulations” (Thorndyke, ‘Blight of Pestilence’). Such response on the part of authorities mainly insisted on regulation and surveillance: on “rigorous policing” concerning movement and isolation, and on “interventionist policies” that at times were also related to the enforcing, or the insufficiency,, of “centralization” (Watts, Epidemics and History).

New priorities for individuals, social groups, intellectuals and intellectual networks, institutions and political powers—as well as the recommendation or instauration of new regimes—were reflected in the intellectual production and in the public sphere, but also in the elaboration of ‘official’ communication, which in many instances involved “inconsistency between official and unofficial perspectives” (Newman, ‘Shutt Up…’); more or less delusional constructs and hidden meanings; “double standards” and the rhetorics of “hard choices” (Slack, ‘Responses to Plague’).

On the one hand, the outbreaks of (often unpredictable) epidemics brought about sudden shifts in social, legal, and medical regulations. On the other hand, epidemics were practically and metaphorically mobilized to push various social, political, and cultural agendas in favour or against individuals, parties, groups. Thus, the governance of epidemics, as well as the related debates and narratives, entailed relevant sets of ideas and important intellectual dynamics, that mostly broke through disciplinary borders.

This Call for Papers intends to address such aspects from the simultaneous point of view of the history of ideas and of the intersection of disciplines.