Death by Numbers: Plague Networks in Early Modern England

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 4:50 PM
Marquette Room (Hilton Chicago)
Jessica Marie Otis, George Mason University
The London Bills of Mortality are a vital source of demographic and epidemiological information about seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century London, but currently only a few select weekly bills are available online. The foundation of my current project is the construction of an online database of plague mortality information collected from the London Bills of Mortality. I am then using network analysis to examine the transmission of plague between residents of London's parishes during both famous epidemic outbreaks and the periods of endemic plague that followed them. This short talk will examine how network analysis complements and complicates more traditional quantitative analysis of the Bills of Mortality, with particular attention paid to the geographical underpinings of the network. Subjects of particular interest in this analysis include the change in infection patterns over time, how the infrastructural and geographical features of the city act as barriers or "highways" to infection, and the devastating impact of – and slow recovery from – the Great Fire of London while plague was still active in the city.