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Volume 6, Number 1—February 2000

Perspective

From Shakespeare to Defoe: Malaria in England in the Little Ice Age

Paul ReiterComments to Author 
Author affiliation: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Main Article

Figure 2

Hunters in the Snow by the Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525–1569). Completed in February 1565, during the first of the many bitter winters of the Little Ice Age. Bruegel painted at least seven such snow scenes, including biblical themes such as Adoration of the Magi (in a snowstorm) and the Census at Bethlehem, and the genre was adopted by other painters of the period. Despite the cold, malaria persisted in northern Europe until the second half of the 20th century. The World Health

Figure 2. Hunters in the Snow by the Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525–1569). Completed in February 1565, during the first of the many bitter winters of the Little Ice Age. Bruegel painted at least seven such snow scenes, including biblical themes such as Adoration of the Magi (in a snowstorm) and the Census at Bethlehem, and the genre was adopted by other painters of the period. Despite the cold, malaria persisted in northern Europe until the second half of the 20th century. The World Health Organization declared Holland free of the disease in 1970. Reproduced courtesy of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

Main Article

1St. Thomas' Hospital (1213), in the Borough of Lambeth, was on the edge of the River Thames, surrounded by tidal marshes. Parliament met in two buildings at a similar site in the Borough of Westminster, directly across the river. Both areas were notoriously malarious. Centuries later, the American Founding Fathers followed British parliamentary procedure in choosing a site for their new nation's capital at the edge of a malarious swamp, later referred to as "A Mud-hole Equal to the Great Serbonian Bog." The Serbonian Bog probably refers to the vast flood plains of the Danube that border northern Serbia and Bulgaria. The Balkan region was the last major stronghold of malaria in Europe. Malaria was finally eliminated there in 1975.

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