What is the course about?
This course focusses on the study of Bubonic and Pneumonic Plague commonly known as the Black Death. We
compare and contrast the impact on the city throughout its 300 year history.
What will we cover?
According to the eye-witness account of Robert of Avesbury, a London clerk, the Black Death first struck London
around 1 November 1348. Within months, an estimated 50% of the inhabitants were dead. We will study the
impact of this devastating mortality on the City. There were subsequent r outbreaks throughout the fifteenth through
to the seventh century and we will chart the reaction of the municipal authorities as they struggled to cope. By the
late sixteenth century we can study mortality bills to gain an idea of the death toll. At the same time the rise of the
printing press provided an outlet for mass production of plague literature. Thus, as never before, we can study in
greater detail the final outbreak of plague in 1665, not least by reading Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
By the end of this course you should be able to:
• Critique the availability of sources in both the 14th and 17th centuries and how this impacts upon our knowledge of
• Identify contemporary ideas as to the cause of the plague and whether these beliefs changed between 1348 and
• Compare and contrast attempts by Londoners to deal with plague mortality in 1349 and 1665
• Analyse and discuss Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year
• Discuss modern theories as to the cause of the Black Death and its disappearance after 1665.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
No previous knowledge is required but a good understanding of English is essential.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
Each week there will be an informative talk during which class discussion will be encouraged. We shall use small
group work to analyse original sources and a range of handouts will be available to aid discussion. You will be
expected to read and discuss (at least one section if not all) Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year. You are
encouraged to bring along/describe items you have read in newspapers/heard on radio/seen on TV you think may be
of interest to the group.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
There are no additional costs other than note-taking materials.Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the
Plague Year is available as a free download: https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/defoe/daniel/d31j/index.html.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
HLw98 Hogarth's London.