Friday, 17 June 2011

MALARIA: History: Malaria, Protestants, and Google

Benjamin James Reilly
Did the Protestant Reformation inadvertently liberate Northern Europe from a long-standing demographic drain exerted by Rome's indigenous P. falciparum malaria? Perhaps, but the existing scholarship on Northern European travel to Rome is only suggestive, not conclusive. Although the presence of P. falciparum in Rome in historical times is well established, literature on Northern European travel to Rome draws from scattered and anecdotal evidence, thus rendering inconclusive their finding that Northern European travel to Rome declined after the Reformation. Seeking corroboration, I performed a statistical analysis of travel to Rome using a novel source: names taken from an archive of nearly 3,000 web pages generated by targeted search engine queries in three languages. The highly suggestive results obtained by this method not only support the original thesis, but also might serve as a guide for other scholars seeking data samples for untraditional environmental history research.

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