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. 2015 Dec 1;10(12):e0143866.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0143866. eCollection 2015.

Historical Epidemics Cartography Generated by Spatial Analysis: Mapping the Heterogeneity of Three Medieval "Plagues" in Dijon

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Free PMC article

Historical Epidemics Cartography Generated by Spatial Analysis: Mapping the Heterogeneity of Three Medieval "Plagues" in Dijon

Pierre Galanaud et al. PLoS One. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Objectives: This work was designed to adapt Geographical Information System-based spatial analysis to the study of historical epidemics. We mapped "plague" deaths during three epidemics of the early 15th century, analyzed spatial distributions by applying the Kulldorff's method, and determined their relationships with the distribution of socio-professional categories in the city of Dijon.

Materials and methods: Our study was based on a database including 50 annual tax registers (established from 1376 to 1447) indicating deaths and survivors among the heads of households, their home location, tax level and profession. The households of the deceased and survivors during 6 years with excess mortality were individually located on a georeferenced medieval map, established by taking advantage of the preserved geography of the historical center of Dijon. We searched for clusters of heads of households characterized by shared tax levels (high-tax payers, the upper decile; low-tax payers, the half charged at the minimum level) or professional activities and for clusters of differential mortality.

Results: High-tax payers were preferentially in the northern intramural part, as well as most wealthy or specialized professionals, whereas low-tax payers were preferentially in the southern part. During two epidemics, in 1400-1401 and 1428, areas of higher mortality were found in the northern part whereas areas of lower mortality were in the southern one. A high concentration of housing and the proximity to food stocks were common features of the most affected areas, creating suitable conditions for rats to pullulate. A third epidemic, lasting from 1438 to 1440 had a different and evolving geography: cases were initially concentrated around the southern gate, at the confluence of three rivers, they were then diffuse, and ended with residual foci of deaths in the northern suburb.

Conclusion: Using a selected historical source, we designed an approach allowing spatial analysis of urban medieval epidemics. Our results fit with the view that the 1400-1401 epidemic was a Black Death recurrence. They suggest that this was also the case in 1428, whereas in 1438-1440 a different, possibly waterborne, disease was involved.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Figures

Fig 1
Fig 1. Socio-economic cartography of late medieval Dijon.
Georeferenced map of medieval Dijon. Rivers as blue lines. Parish churches, abbeys and a number of prominent places are indicated. Major gates and routes are indicated. The streets mentioned in the text are italicized. The 12th century rampart is shown by dotted lines. Limits of the 7 parishes are in orange solid lines (dotted lines when they coincide with the rampart). Empty areas circled in solid purple line: clusters where high-tax payers were in excess (clusters 1 & 3). Yellow area circled in dotted purple line: cluster where low-tax payers were less numerous (cluster 2). Brown solid line: upper limit of the cluster where low-tax payers were in excess (cluster 4).
Fig 2
Fig 2. Cartography of death in 1400.
Georeferenced map of medieval Dijon. Rivers as blue lines. Parish churches, abbeys and a number of prominent places are indicated. The streets mentioned in the text are italicized. The 12th century rampart is shown by dotted lines. Each point corresponds to a surviving head of household (green points) or to a registered death (larger red points). Yellow areas circled in red: clusters with a higher relative risk of grouped death. Yellow areas circled in green: clusters with a lower or null relative risk of grouped death. Empty area circled in purple: cluster of higher density of butchers in the Bourg district. The Bourg district stood between the ancient fortification of the castrum (1) and the Suzon River (2) and its northern end was contiguous to Forges Street (3). Historical evidence of the location of the statistically significant clusters is presented in S9 Text.
Fig 3
Fig 3. From marcs tax register to cartography of death.
A copy of two folios corresponding to either side of Fermerot Street in 1400 shows the contrasting mortality between the western and the eastern sides of the street. On the left is folio 1v that enlists households standing on the western side of the street. On the right is folio 2v that enlists households standing on the eastern side of the street. Folio 2v is upside down to fit with the direction of recording (see below). As indicated in the left margin (on the right side for folio 2v), each head of household can be a deceased (mort, "dead"), an absent (ale or alee, "gone") or a survivor (no indication). The red circles indicate the deaths. Deaths are more numerous in folio 2v and all of them correspond to grouped deaths, as they are closely associated with other deaths in the register file (in folio 2v or in the previous or following folio). The map in the centre of the figure is the enlarged corresponding section of the georeferenced map. Each point corresponds to a surviving head of household (green points) or to a registered death (larger red points), and the points outside Fermerot Street have been erased. The "gone" (4 in folio 1v and 1 in folio 2v) do not appear in the map, as they were not taken into account in this work. The putative path of the tax collector starts from Fermerot gate (below the North indication), goes towards south along the western side of the street, lined by the Clairvaux abbey enclosure, turns at the end of the street, and returns along the eastern side of Fermerot Street towards the north. The rectangles indicate the households included in the corresponding folio of the marcs tax register. Folio 2v and the corresponding eastern side are inside the cluster of higher grouped death relative risk, whereas folio 1v and the western side are outside (Fig 2). The western side of Fermerot Street at least partially corresponded to an area where the Clairvaux abbey rented houses in its enclosure, where housing density might have been lower.
Fig 4
Fig 4. Cartography of death in 1428.
Georeferenced map of medieval Dijon. Rivers as blue lines. Parish churches, abbeys and a number of prominent places are indicated. The 12th century rampart is shown by dotted lines. Each point corresponds to a surviving head of household (green points) or to a registered death (larger red points). Yellow area circled in dotted red line: spatial cluster where the relative risk of death doubled. Yellow area circled in solid red line: cluster with a higher relative risk of grouped death. Yellow area circled in green: cluster with a null relative risk of grouped death. Historical evidence of the location of the statistically significant clusters is presented in S10 Text.
Fig 5
Fig 5. Cartography of death in 1438.
Georeferenced map of medieval Dijon. Rivers as blue lines. Parish churches, abbeys and a number of prominent places are indicated. The 12th century rampart is shown by dotted lines. Each point corresponds to a surviving head of household (green points) or to a registered death (larger red points). Yellow area circled in dotted red line: spatial cluster with a higher relative risk of death. Yellow areas circled in solid red line: clusters with a higher relative risk of grouped deaths. The limits of the parish with a higher mortality (Saint-Philibert) are in red. The limits of the parish with a lower mortality (extramural part of Saint-Nicolas) are in green. Historical evidence of the location of the statistically significant clusters is presented in S11 Text.
Fig 6
Fig 6. Cartography of death in 1440.
Georeferenced map of medieval Dijon. Rivers as blue lines. Parish churches, abbeys and a number of prominent places are indicated. The 12th century rampart is shown by dotted lines. Each point corresponds to a surviving head of household (green points) or to a registered death (larger red points). Yellow areas circled in solid red line: clusters with a higher relative risk of grouped death. Yellow area circled in green: cluster with a null relative risk of grouped death. Historical evidence of the location of the statistically significant clusters is presented in S11 Text.

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Grant support

This work was supported by Institut Universitaire de France and UMR6249 Chronoenvironnement, and Université de Bourgogne-Franche-Comté/CNRS.
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