‘Public health’ addresses plague policies and the notions of public health they embodied. The particular character of plague epidemics undoubtedly made its own contribution to the ways in which it was combated. It evidently came from outside, and its chief victims were the poor and disadvantaged—people with little political influence who seemed in need of control for other reasons. Surveillance and segregation followed naturally from that. Once begun, however, they appeared wherever rulers and regimes wanted to exercise greater control over their subjects. The reason why Europe was first in developing a particularly draconian code of public health seems likely to lie, therefore, in the realm of politics.