Plague - Coping With Catastrophe: The Great Plague of the...

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Coping With Catastrophe: The Great Plague of the Seventeenth Century Disease was rampant in the 17th century and the “Great Plague” was a devastating epidemic of bubonic plague that broke out in London in 1665. The disease was spread by fleas from infected rats, which flocked through slums surrounding the city. Before the epidemic died down in 1666, it had taken about 100,000 lives. In England, people anxiously read the weekly publishing of the Bills of Mortality, which listed the number of deaths and their causes. Plague was the most feared disease not only because people died of it every year, but the Black Death pandemic, which had killed nearly one third of Europe’s population, still lived on in folk tales. The plague was extremely terrifying because it struck so swiftly. Most people died within days, in agony from fevers and infected swellings. It spread at a horrifying rate and could destroy a town or even a city within weeks. With no cure, the authorities relied on drastic methods to contain it. Many countries built large plague hospitals called “pest houses” to hold victims, but England preferred cheaper local solutions. Its orders ruled that victims should be shut into their own houses and left to die. Daniel Defoe, Geraldine Brooks, and Stephen Porter have each written books concerning this plague and have different styles of presenting the social, political, and other effects of the disease. In A Journal of the Plague Year, Daniel Defoe writes about the accounts of the plague based on real accounts in which he documented. He has done a good job of 1
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bringing the distant event that sometimes is overlooked and has created an interest to learn about the conditions of London and the people who lived there during the period. He has incorporated a good amount of actual materials such as governmental orders to draw a vividly horrible picture of the suffering community. However, I do not think of it as a good primary source because it is actually a fictional story written fifty years after the event. Defoe has a very interesting writing style, narrating the story in the first person as if he were experiencing the events himself. In the book his character could easily be imagined as a very realistic personality, however it seems to be more suitable for a person in the early eighteenth century. His attention to boring details was only vast in the beginning, but he soon quickened the pace of the book. The reading was enjoyable mostly because of Defoe’s great ability to somehow glamorize the event more so than the other authors. The book starts at the beginning of September of 1664, when townspeople were
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Plague - Coping With Catastrophe: The Great Plague of the...

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