The Great Reopening Experiment Begins

Painting of Marseille during the outbreak of a pandemic in 1720 by Michel Serre

Almost exactly 300 years ago, in May of 1720, the goods-laden merchant ship Grand-Saint-Antoine arrived in Marseille, France, having earlier made port in plague-infested Cyprus. It had recently attempted a stop in Livorno, Italy, but officials there refused it entry. As it happened, Marseille had formed a Sanitation Board in 1580 at the end of the previous plague outbreak and with it, a well-established comprehensive…