• The Bills of Mortality

    The Bills of Mortality were designed to monitor deaths in London during that pleasant period of plague.

    They were started in around 1592, and soon became a weekly publication. The information was collected by local Parish Clerks. By 1629, the cause of death was also being provided. It's these publications that provide the most interest, even if they are a little gruesome.

    In 1665, the London Parish Clerks recorded 2614 people who died of worms, 14 of lethargy, 50 who drowned and 20 who were just 'found dead in the streets or fields'. Then there were the diseases which are now known by a better name. 'The King's evil' was actually a form of tuberculosis. It got its name because it was one of a number of illnesses which people believed would be cured if the King touched you (sadly, it turned out the King didn't have magic fingers in most cases). 'Rising of the Lights' was thought to be an illness affecting the lungs - whatever it was - 397 were killed by it. But the big hitter was always the plague. In the Bill we looked at, 68, 596 people died of plague.

    London was not the place to be if you wanted to stay alive. Not unless you knew a King with a magic touch.

    posted by You're History


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