Living with the Plague
Most people have heard of the Black Death that ravaged Medieval Europe. Less well known is that the bubonic plague returned again and again.
Covid-19 is a unique and novel catastrophe. But in the early-modern period, most people lived through a plague. In fact, they probably experienced it more than once. The threat of plague was one of the defining characteristics of life in medieval and early-modern Europe. Sometimes plague outbreaks were widespread. Others affected only particular cities. In London, the Great Plague of 1665-1666 was the worst plague outbreak since the Black Death. Around 15% of the population died.
The Diary of Samuel Pepys: An Eyewitness Account
What was it like to live through a plague? What did people know about the disease, and how did they respond? The Diary of Samuel Pepys, a statesman and naval administrator, provides some answers. Over an 8 month period, his diary gives us a day-by-day eyewitness account of how the plague unfolded. Click on the timeline below to learn about the experience of plague, in Pepys’ own words.