The site of the Italian Society for the History of the Early Modern Age (SISEM) hosts the editorial by Domenico Cecere Memorie corte. Le società di antico regime e l’esperienza delle catastrofi (Short memories. Ancien régime societies and the experience of disasters). Drawing on some aspects of public communication observed during the current health emergency, the Author reflects on the ways in which the societies of the past have preserved or reworked the memory of the calamities that have marked their history and on the use they have made of such memories. This analysis opens up a further space for reflection on what societies can learn from the experience of past disasters, to put the present into perspective and imagine the future.
By analyzing and comparing the testimonies of disasters in ancien régime societies, and comparing them with social practices, with the logic of certain institutions and with the functions attributed to certain infrastructures, we have a perception of the importance that societies of the past often attributed to the memory of certain calamities, preserving and transmitting this to future generations.
Behind the veil of religious, symbolic or mythical elements drawn from a shared culture, we can gain an awareness of the vulnerability perceived by individuals and groups to certain risks in many of the sources where traces of individual and collective traumatic experiences are found. This awareness stemmed from an experience of calamities that in the past had struck a certain society and a certain territory.