Monday, April 13

Living standards and plague in London, 1560–1665

First the abstract

This article uses individual records of 930,000 burials and 630,000 baptisms to reconstruct the spatial and temporal patterns of birth and death in London from 1560 to 1665, a period dominated by recurrent plague. The plagues of 1563, 1603, 1625, and 1665 appear of roughly equal magnitude, with deaths running at five to six times their usual rate, but the impact on wealthier central parishes falls markedly through time. Tracking the weekly spread of plague, we find no evidence that plague emerged first in the docks, and in many cases elevated mortality emerges first in the poor northern suburbs. Looking at the seasonal pattern of mortality, we find that the characteristic autumn spike associated with plague continued into the early 1700s. Natural increase improved as smaller crises disappeared after 1590, but fewer than half of those born survived childhood.

A story of London.


These are the mortality graphs in London plague years by parish relative to median mortality in the preceding five years. What is very clear is that the deaths happened in North London..actually near where we live. Fascinating behaviour. It was quite interesting to imagine how these outbreaks and epidemics would grow through time, can you imagine deaths at 5-6 times normal rampaging through the crowded, dirty tenements of London? fascinating.

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