Smallpox constituted a dreadful disease that killed tens of thousands of people annually throughout Europe under the Old Regime. In 1796 Edward Jenner discovered a vaccine to this disease. Smallpox vaccination was the most important medical innovation during the transition from the 18th into the 19th century and a major reason for the decline in child mortality. This article explores smallpox vaccination policy, its implementation and consequences, in the Republic and Kingdom of Italy (1802-1814), the longest-lasting Napoleonic satellite state. The essay studies vaccination policy top down and bottom up, including laws and regulations, their enforcement by officials and physicians, their effectiveness, the role of clergy in applying the policy, the public reception, and the difficulties the government confronted. The study demonstrates that the Napoleonic state pursued vaccination vigorously and established an increasingly rational and effective vaccination machinery that immunized tens of thousands of people annually. Indeed, well over one million people, mostly children, were immunized in northern Italy under the Napoleonic rule. By exploring the operation of vaccination policies, this article expands our understanding of the growing power and centralization of the Napoleonic state and the methods its administration used to put its policies into effect and impose itself on civil society.
Keywords: Smallpox; Vaccination, Health Policies; Italian Republic; Kingdom of Italy; Luigi Sacco; General Director of Vaccination; Prefects, Physicians.