Medicine through time

Medicine through time - content, activities and blog for teachers and learners of medicine through time

Home - Blog - Medicine by period - Medicine by theme - Timelines - Revision Activities - Teachers Resources - Links - Dummies Guide to Medicine - Audio-Visual Materials - Interactive Scheme of Work - Recommended Books

Site Search

 

 

 

A case study of the 1665 Plague in London

 Learning Objective: To identify elements of continuity with the Middle Ages in the understanding of the causes and treatments of plague.

Activities:

* Students identify and summarise beliefs about the causes of plague and its treatment in 1665 from a variety of primary sources.
* Students identify elements of similarity with medical understanding of the Black Death in the Middle Ages.

Task: Use the POINTERS to the right of the source to help you answer the question ‘How did people in London react to the Plague?’


Broadsheet


Pointers:

Look at the headline, it suggests fear.

What does the illustration show us? Is it people fleeing the city?

The pages border is illustrated with skulls, skeletons and shovels. Think about the reasons for this.

To both sides of the page are columns. What might you expect to find in these columns?

Use the data in the table to the left (below) and from the newspaper account to the right to compile a spreadsheet of Plague related deaths.

 

Total deaths from disease and deaths from plague:

selected years 1592-1665

Year

1592

 

1603

 

1665

 

 

 

Total

Plague

Total

Plague

Total

Plague

 

Mar

877

87

246

11

0

0

Ma

April

1253

140

352

26

398

2

Apr

May

1499

200

446

83

1872

43

May

June

3531

1333

838

362

2258

590

June

July

6011

2986

4042

2996

6820

4127

July

Aug

6080

2404

17267

8922

25447

19066

Aug

Sept

3318

1820

14009

12500

30599

26220

Sept

Oct

1382

1236

4534

3943

17201

14373

Oct

Nov

1280

503

1904

1390

1787

1414

Nov

Dec

1046

196

286

160

0

0

Dec

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

26277

10905

43924

30393

86382

65835

 

 

 

 

The plague of 1665 is often referred to as being the ‘Great Plague’. The evidence that you have seen so far makes it clear that the plague itself was serious, but does not make the true extent of the outbreak clear. The evidence to the left shows that the plague of 1665 was much worse than earlier outbreaks in 1625 and 1630.

Other, contemporary evidence is available to show us how the people of the day reacted to the Plague. Consider the words used by Samuel Pepys in his diary:

This day, much against my Will, I did in Drury-lane see two or three houses marked with a red cross upon the doors, and "Lord have mercy upon us" writ there - which was a sad sight to me, being the first of that kind that to my remembrance I ever saw. It put me into an ill conception of myself and my smell, so that I was forced to buy some roll tobacco to smell to and chaw - which took away the apprehension. [Houses infected by the Plague had to have a red cross one foot high marked on their door and were shut up - often with the victims inside. Tobacco was highly prized for its medicinal value, especially against the Plague. It is said that at Eton one boy was flogged for being discovered not smoking.] (Samuel Pepys diary 7th June 1665)

Questions:

What evidence is there in Samuel Pepys diary of people having superstitious beliefs about the spread of the Plague?

Did people in the seventeenth century deal with the spread of disease in a scientific manner?

The number of deaths caused by things OTHER than the plague rose rapidly during the outbreak. Records show us that the cause of these deaths ranged from ‘Fright’, through to ‘fever’. How reliable are the records on plague deaths?

 

Revise it: use primary source materials from the National Archives to complete the activities on this page.
 

 

 

 

 

Latest blog and forum posts

On the medicine blog:

 

Medicine through time   

 

Want more detailed updates?

 

 

 

 

GCSE History Resource Website - Crime and Punishment Through Time Site - Schools History Resources for all Key Stages