628 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 78 PART 4 JULY 2020
In what is now the United States, quarantine strategies were employed
from the late 1600s as well, in relation to yellow fever and later cholera.
In the 18th century, with quarantine practices and periods differing
across countries, there was confusion and abuse, and indeed it appears that
“the disinfection of correspondence” was even “used as an excuse for political
espionage”.11 Ultimately international conferences on quarantine and
related issues were held, commencing with the International Sanitary Conference
1. This piece is based on an array of helpful sources,
both pre-dating the COVID-19 crisis and in reaction
to it. Those sources include Philip A Mackowiak &
Paul S Sehdev, “The Origin of Quarantine” (2002)
35:9 Clinical Infectious Diseases 1071; Gian Franco
Gensini, Magdi H Yacoub & Andrea A Conti, “The
Concept of Quarantine in History: From Plague to
SARS” (2004) 49:4 J Infect 257; Peter Tyson, “A
Short History of Quarantine”, PBS (11 October
2004), online: <www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/
short-history-of-quarantine/>; Eugenia Tognotti,
“Lessons from the History of Quarantine, from
Plague to Influenza A” (2013) 19:2 Emerg Infect Dis
254; Zlata Blažina Tomi´c & Vezna Blažina,
Expelling the Plague: The Health Office and the
Implementation of Quarantine in Dubrovnik, 1377–
1533 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University
Press, 2015); Lisa Lim, “The Italian Origins of
the Word ‘Quarantine’ and the Extended Isolation It
Implied”, South China Morning Post (17 February
2020), online: <www.scmp.com/magazines/postmagazine/
word-quarantine-and-extended>; Jane Stevens
Crawshaw, “Quarantine – An Early Modern
Approach”, History & Policy (12 March 2020),
Darko Bandic, “Croatia’s Dubrovnik, Home to
Ancient Quarantine Facilities”, ABC News (24
March 2020), online: <abcnews.go.com/Health/
quarantine-facilities-69768965>; David Roos,
“Social Distancing and Quarantine Were Used in
Medieval Times to Fight the Black Death”, History (25
March 2020, updated 27 March 2020), online:
Lara Rasin, “The History of Quarantines
in the City That Invented Them”, Time Out (31 March
2020), online: <www.timeout.com/croatia/news/
033120>; Kristin Vukovi , “Dubrovnik: The
Medieval City Designed Around Quarantine”, BBC
(22 April 2020), online: <www.bbc.com/travel/
around-quarantine>; “The Medieval Origins
of Quarantine”, Medievalists.net, online: <www.
quarantine/>; Kate Lister, “A Brief History of Quarantine,
and What It Can Teach Us About Social Distancing
Today”, i (29 April 2020, updated 1 May
2020), online: <inews.co.uk/opinion/comment/abrief
2. Blažina Tomi & Blažina, supra note 1.
3. Gensini, Yacoub & Conti, supra note 1.
4. Tyson, supra note 1.
6. Gensini, Yacoub & Conti, supra note 1.
7. Tognotti, supra note 1.
8. Rasin, supra note 1.
9. Gensini, Yacoub & Conti, supra note 1.
10. Tognotti, supra note 1.
11. Gensini, Yacoub & Conti, supra note 1.
in Paris in 1851.
Even for its early implementers, quarantine laws were not entirely effective.
Plague outbreaks returned to Dubrovnik itself in 1391 and 1397, as well
as later years, and of course plague beset England in 1665–66 despite its
prior adoption of quarantine regulations. However, while they did not
always serve to avoid disease, they may have had the benefit (with, of
course, the ever-present danger of abuse) of communicating to rattled societies
that governments were attempting to impose some order and control.
As our recent experiences suggest, there is both reassurance and unease to
be extracted from that even now.