By Logsdon M.I.
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74 Urban environments were just as hazardous. The great majority of urban settlements were disorderly rabbit warrens of narrow streets and alleys, crammed with small houses. Until the second half of the seventeenth century, when street lamps were introduced into the great cities of Europe, the only sources of light in the streets were candles and oil lamps shining through the windows of houses. Bands of thieves often roamed at night; any urbanite who ventured out after dark put his life at risk.
In fact, Ekirch reports that the murder rate during the early modern era was ﬁve to ten times higher than today. 75 Some municipal institutions existed, but they closed before dark so that workers could go home before nightfall. For protection at night, all the residents could do was retreat inside their homes and secure them with locks, bolts, shutters, and gates. 76 20 / Appealing to Saints for Miracles The extraordinary lengths to which some municipalities went to protect themselves from thieves, brigands, and others at night is illustrated by Ekirch’s discussion of the French town of Saint-Malo, a garrison town on the northern coast of France that housed large quantities of naval stores.
In addition, a pesthouse was built for the sick outside the village gate. Inside the village, quarantine was imposed on the households of victims. Those who were quarantined had to be fed, and this required the imposition of a special tax. Monte Lupo was already a very poor village, and its residents resisted the new tax. Civil unrest developed, exacerbated by the fact that thieves began to pillage Life in the Middle Ages / 15 Figure 1. Victims of the Black Death. From the Toggenburg Bible, Switzerland, ca.