This article uses the history of bovine epizootics in eighteenth-century Venice to make three interrelated claims about the place of early modern Europe in environmental history. First, that the sudden appearance of severe and recurring zoonotic diseases in northern Italy is a symptom of a much larger shift in European agrarian systems and nutritional habits, and that new markets for beef cattle were springing up in Italy and elsewhere in western Europe. Second, that the agrarian revolution of the eighteenth century was in part the result of a heretofore ignored shifting of environmental costs from western Europe to central Europe. By raising large numbers of beef cattle on the Hungarian plain, Italians and other western Europeans were able to access unprecedented supplies of animal protein without sacrificing any arable land. Third, that the emergence of widespread epizootics in eighteenth-century Europe should force environmental historians to reconsider the ways in which we treat early modern European forms of agriculture, pastoralism, and environmental organization as normative. Rapid and devastating environmental change generated by new biological encounters occurred within Europe itself and not only as a result of European expansion into other parts of the globe.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Science (miscellaneous)