Malnutrition in XIXth Century Naples

Laura Ottini, Renato Mariani-Costantini, Aldo Mariani-Costantini


In the second half of the XIXth century, after the unification of Italy, researches and enquiries that had the objective of investigating links between malnutrition and disease were promoted in the city of Naples, the former Capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The philosophy underlying these scientific efforts, devoted to the benefit of the lower classes of the population, derived from the famous enquiry into the conditions of the Provinces of the Kingdom of Naples, promoted by the enlightened government of Joachim Murat in 1811. By necessity, the researchers had to address, with the methodological limits of the period, the complex interactions among social, environmental, medical, hygienic and physiologic factors, attempting to enucleate strategies of prevention and of active intervention. The works of Achille Spatuzzi, Luigi Somma, Errico De Renzi and Luigi Manfredi, demonstrated the persistence of poverty and malnutrition among the lower classes of the Neapolitan population and had the merit of being among the first in explicitly recognizing the association between inadequate dietary intake, relative to the needs of the organism, and major diseases, such as rickets, tuberculosis, and anemias.

Keywords: History of epidemiology - Environmental malnutrition - Naples - XIX century

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