Lady Tully and the “Great Epidemic” of 1785-1786: Observations Straddling Multiple Worlds
Lady Tully’s letters are a reliable source for late 18th-century Tripoli and a prime source for the “Great Epidemic” of 1785 and 1786. Some reasons lie in the dense narration of the experiences, sensations, individual and group reactions seen directly by the author inside the English fondaco during the thirteen months of quarantine and in a narration filtered by the consular informants who reported what happened outside, among and within the Tripoline communities. Moreover, the author presents a kaleidoscope of theoretical, practical and emotional issues, contemplates the fruits of different perspectives, welcomes apparently disparate aspects from which, sometimes unconsciously, articulated and “comprehensive” visions of the internal and external worlds arise. Finally, the author’s attentive and participatory gaze, mainly addressed to the female universe in its many local declinations, contrasts with the dry, chronicle-like reporting of contemporary sources. The text therefore can be appreciated, in its anchoring to a certain orientalism and in its genuine impulses towards the local population, as much as the object of the narrative itself.
keywords: lady tully; plague; epidemics; tripoli; maghreb; karamanlı