In the Plague Year of 2020May 3, 2020 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 13 °C
With all the doom and gloom that we have been surrounded with over the past few weeks I looked for something to read that would lighten my melancholy and bring a smile to my face. After a brief search for free downloads from Project Gutenberg, I found an entertaining book written by Daniel Defoe. It bore the title "A History of the Plague in London". It was just the sort of lighthearted book that I had been looking for.
I sat down with the kindle and was soon mesmerised by his Defoe's account of London in the plague year of 1665. The first thing I decided was Defoe must have been quite a child prodigy. He was born in the year 1661, and therefore was only 4 years old when the plague was running rampant. He must have had either had an excellent memory, or relied heavily on third party accounts of the events that took place.
The second thing that struck me was how similar the events were in 1665 compared to what we are currently going through now. Of course I know that our world is very different to the world of London over 350 years ago. They had no Internet, no Netflix, no mail order shopping and certainly no JobKeeper allowances. On the other hand, the government regulations and accounts of people's behaviour makes uncanny reading.
When the plague first broke out, vast numbers of Londoners fled the city to find safer lodgings in the country. But, before they could leave the city, they had to have a certificate of health to enable them to pass the numerous roadblocks and checkpoints. There was also a serious shortage of horses to pull the carts to transport people out of London. Large numbers of people therefore had to walk their way to the country. The once busy streets of London were left largely deserted. All taverns, cafes and coffeehouses were closed, along with theatres and all other places where crowds could gather. (Sound familiar ?)
Any house that reported a case of the plague was marked with a large red cross and a "watcher" was stationed outside the door. The purpose of the watcher was to ensure that no one entered or left the house. If the watcher had to leave to run an errand, they had to secure the door with a padlock.
People who had any contact with an infected person had to undergo quarantine for 28 days. Any bedding, clothes or other goods from the infected premises were also quarantined. And all this was taking place before they even understood what caused the disease in the first place.
Of course, there were a large number of scammers and charlatans ("mountebanks") who took advantage of the hysteria to make money at the expense of the vulnerable. Dodgy doctors, fortune tellers, amulet makers and astrologers all saw their opportunity to make a killing.
In 2020 not that much seems to have changed.
(If you would like to read the same book, it can be downloaded free of charge from www.gutenberg.org If you have a kindle reader it can be downloaded directly to your kindle.The whole process only takes a minute or so. )
In the afternoon we went for a long walk along the coast. We were interested to see how the recent storms might have changed the coastline. Although it was evident that there had been damaging waves, to our relief the damage was quite modest. It was fantastic to see so many other individuals, couples and entire families out walking and riding.Read more