Bring out your dead
Gagné, John. “Counting the Dead: Traditions of Enumeration and the Italian Wars.” Renaissance Quarterly 67, no. 3 (September 2014): 791–840.
Abstract: Methods for counting war deaths developed alongside structural changes in the ways that states enumerated mortality (for both fighters and citizens) between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. This paper argues that an alternative way to interpret observers’ comments on the magnitude and novelty of war damages during the Italian Wars (1494-1559) is to trace the history of enumerating mortality from the fourteenth century, using the Hundred Years’ War and the Black Death as departure points. Military heralds counted dead soldiers in Northern Europe and civic record keepers registered public mortality in Italy. Numbers carried cultural value. In war, disputants and observers used numbers rhetorically to argue political cases and to emphasize the scale of victories and defeats. By 1500, the proliferation of specific mortality numbers in public discourse–amplified by printed war reporting–forced observers to reckon with their meaning. The article concludes by illustrating how numbers entered memorial culture: monuments from the Italian Wars featured numbers as an index of the perceived magnitude of war in the sixteenth century.
How, you may ask, did I know that an article would be published on mortality rates? Just psychic, I guess.