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Reckoning with London: interpreting the Bills of Mortality before John Graunt

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 July 2011


Early modern Londoners had access to weekly reports on the numbers of deaths. These weekly ‘books of death’ that the Parish Clerks' Company compiled provided the base for a city-wide system whereby the number of deaths in every parish was reported to the Lord Mayor and the monarch. Under James and Charles royal interest led to the extension of the parishes listed in the Bills of Mortality to cover the wider metropolis while readers developed strategies for interpreting these weekly figures. In 1662 statistics derived from the annual summaries of the London Bills provided the base for John Graunt's path-breaking actuarial calculations. However, despite Graunt's demonstration of the importance of supplementary data that the Bills had incorporated, a system geared to report the weekly ebb and flow of epidemics was unable to provide the statistics that statisticians wanted. Rather than blaming the Bills, disappointed scholars claimed that the female parish searchers were incompetent.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1996

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Earlier versions of this paper were delivered to the Society for the Social History of Medicine's Conference on ‘Information Technology and Medical History’ at Southampton University in July 1993 and to the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine at Oxford University in 1994. Its recasting has benefited from comments offered by both audiences, by Piers Cain, Mark Jenner and Linda Sturtz and by two anonymous reviewers for this journal.


1 London, P[ublic] R[ecords] O[ffice], SP12/287/52, f. 1v. Anthony Rivers to Giovanni Battista Galfredi, 9 March 1602/3.

2 C[orporation of] L[ondon] R[ecords] O[ffice], Remb. [Remembrancia], ii. f. 74, no. 234, 13 April 1603, Lord Mayor to Privy Council.

3 Birdwood, G. and Foster, W. (eds), The Register of Letters &c of the Governours and Companie of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies, 1600–1619 (London, 1893), 3840Google Scholar, 2 December 1603. The letter is quoted in part in Foster, W., The East India House: Its History and Associations (London, 1924), 57–8Google Scholar. I am grateful to Mark Jenner for bringing that reference to my attention. For the length of the outbreak see the weekly Bill of Mortality for 8 December 1603—15 December 1603 which includes weekly summaries running back to 17 December 1602.

4 A Calvinist Dutch merchant's reading of the epidemic as a divine verdict on the accession is described by Van Dorsten, Jan, ‘“I.O.C.”: the rediscovery of a modest Dutchman in London, Jacobus Colius Ortelianus (1563–1628), merchant-writer’, in van de Berg, J. and Hamilton, A. (eds), The Anglo-Dutch Renaissance: Seven Essays, Publications of the Sir Thomas Browne Institute, n.s. 10 (Leiden, 1988), 820Google Scholar. On the general prospect of critics of James's inheritance invoking the plague, Healy, M., ‘Discourses of the plague in early modern London’, in Champion, J.A.I. (ed.), Epidemic Disease in London, Center for Metropolitan History, Working Papers, 1 (London, 1993), 30Google Scholar. The importance of metaphors of plague in an earlier generation's critiques of Mary Tudor is discussed in Shakespeare, J., ‘Plague and punishment’, in Lake, P. and Dowling, M. (eds), Protestants and the National Church in Sixteenth Century England (London, 1987), 103–23Google Scholar.

5 The Company's problems in finding a market for its pepper at this juncture are sketched in Chaudhuri, K.N., The English East India Company: The Study of an Early Joint-Stock Company 1600–1640 (London, 1965), 153–4Google Scholar. In Turkey the employees of the Levant Company would face considerable difficulties when James's scruples as a Christian monarch delayed the renewal of diplomatic contacts with the Sultan. Croft, P., ‘New light on Bates's Case’, Historical Journal, 30 (1987), 527–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 Rutherford, J. (ed.), The Miscellaneous Papers of Captain Thomas Stockwell, 1590–1611, 2 vols: I.1591–1605 (Southampton, 1932), 22, 4 July 1604Google Scholar.

7 For the very different experience with plague that James was accustomed to as King of Scots, where Edinburgh was generally free from the disease, although remaining liable to attacks from continental Europe, where the plague remained endemic or, of course, to reinfection via England, see Smout, T.C., ‘Coping with plague in sixteenth and seventeenth-century Scotland’, Scotia, 2 (1978), 1933Google Scholar.

8 C.L.R.O. Book of Oaths, Elizabethan, f. 65v. For Company ordinances, see Christie, J., Some Account of the Parish Clerks (London, 1893), 133Google Scholar. The 1553 ordinance is restated in C.L.R.O. Rep[ertory of the Court of Aldermen] xxxiii. f. 307, 4 June 1618. On the place of orphanages in London, see Hanawalt, B.A., Growing Up in Medieval London: The Experience of Childhood in History (New York, 1993), 89107Google Scholar. Also, Clark, E., ‘City orphans and custody laws in medieval England’, American Journal of Legal History, 34 (1990), 168–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and Carlton, C., The Court of Orphans (Leicester, 1974)Google Scholar.

9 Brett-James, N.G., The Growth of Stuart London (London, 1935), 263–4Google Scholar. The contrast between the figures that could be drawn from the Bills with the new data produced by the Registrar General's Office is brought out in Angus, J., ‘Old and new bills of mortality; movements of population; deaths and fatal diseases in London during the last fourteen years’, journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 17 (1854), 117–42Google Scholar.

10 G[uildhall] Li[brary], MS. 4891, Parish Clerks' Charter, 27 February 1635/36, f. 2. The municipal duty of reporting the ‘name and surname of such freemen [of London] as shalbe buried in the severall parishes’ to the officers of their various guilds was also retained. Their origional sixteenth-century oath, which required them to report names to the Lord Mayor's Court, was also retranscribed without any alteration. C.L.R.O. 37C, Book of Oaths, Seventeenth Century, ff. 162–3.

11 For these, see McCusker, J.J., European Bills of Entry and Marine Lists: Early Commercial Publications and the Origins of the Business Press (Cambridge, Mass., 1985), 513Google Scholar. I am grateful to Professor McCusker for sending me a photocopy of the surviving sheet of the weekly Prices Current for London cloth, the ‘Prezzi di Sete et Drappi di feta in Londra per contanti,’ from 6 August 1610: STC 9175z.15, a rare item whose fortuitous survival was due to its being re-used as lining for wallpaper in Amsterdam. The format of this sheet, where the weekly prices from London's Blackwell Hall were added in ink to a pre-printed form, seems very similar to that of the Jacobean Bills of Mortality.

12 The categories are from a manuscript ‘Order of London Certificate for Sickness’, 2 December 1591, in the Folger Shakespeare Library, MS. x.d. 519.I have used a photocopy in the Guildhall Library, G.L. MS. 17,884.

13 Masters, B.R. (ed.), Chamber Accounts of the Sixteenth Century (London, 1984)Google Scholar, Appendix E, ‘Extracts from the foreign charge, 1563–71’, 123; Sutherland, I., ‘Parish registers and the London Bills of Mortality’, Journal of the Society of Archivists, 4 (1970), 65Google Scholar.

14 C.L.R.O. Rep. xiii. f. 46v. 8 May 1553, Parish Clerks’ Ordinances. The procedure for listing and reporting plague deaths in the City was probably initiated by Cardinal Wolsey in 1512, when Henry VIII's Court was resident at the new Bridewell Palace just outside the City walls. Slack, P.A., The Impact of Plague in Tudor and Stuart England (London, 1985), 148Google Scholar. (Although James Cassedy would attribute this development to the successive efforts of Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell, he offers no evidence for this suggestion: Cassedy, J.H., ‘Medicine and the rise of statistics’, in Debus, A.G. (ed.), Medicine in Seventeenth Century England: A Symposium Held at UCLA in Honor of CD. O'Malley (Berkeley, 1974), 285–6Google Scholar).

15 C.L.R.O. Rep. xvii, f. 46v. 1 August 1570; Slack, Impact of Plague, 156, for the suggestion that in London ‘the distribution of plague mortality changed markedly in the later sixteenth century, and specifically between 1563 and 1593’.

16 C.L.R.O. Jor[nals of the Common Council] xxii f. 401, 15 July 1590, repeating an earlier mayoral precept from May 1578. The scrappy information on the women searchers is collected in Forbes, T.R., ‘The searchers’, Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 2nd ser., 50 (1974), 1031–8Google ScholarPubMed. I am grateful to Richard Smith and Margaret Pelling for bringing this article to my attention.

17 P.R.O. SP16/571/81, f. 131, n.d. [November 1636?], Lord Mayor and Aldermen to Privy Council. On the distrust for some women searchers of the dead in some provincial centres, see Slack, Impact of Plague, 274–5.

18 The Number of all those that hath dyed in the Citie of London, and the Liberties of the same, from 28 of December 1581 unto 27 of December 1582, with the Christenings (London, n.d. [1582/83]), S.T.C. 16738.5.Google Scholar

19 The pamphlet's further publication of City-wide totals from the 1563 epidemic - whose weekly figures were subsequently incorporated into broadsheets during later epidemics -implies that the comparative value of such figures was already appreciated.

20 Lord Have Mercy Upon Us (London, Thomas Lambert, 1603)Google Scholar, G.L. B'side, 28.48.

21 P.R.O. SP14/28/89 [p. 154], Bill of Mortality, 5 November to 12 November 1607.

22 P.R.O. SP16/12/39 [p. 65v], A General Bill …30 December 1624 to 22 December 1625 (London, 1625)Google Scholar; P.R.O. SP16/11/71 [p. 144], A General or Great Bill… (London, 1625)Google Scholar.

23 On one parish clerk during an epidemic, see Caldin, W. and Raine, H., ‘The plague of 1625 and the story of John Boston, parish clerk of St. Savior's, Southwark’, Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, 23 (1971), 90–9Google Scholar.

24 On both the tendency for diagnoses of ‘spotted fever’ to rise during an epidemic and also for the degree that diagnoses of smallpox, whose symptoms would not be mistaken for the ‘tokens’ of the plague, still remained stable, which suggests the overall utility of publishing consolidated lists of other causes of death, see Appleby, A.B., ‘Nutrition and disease: the case of London, 1550–1750’, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 6 (1975), 1115CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Misdiagnoses are also discussed by Forbes, T.R., Chronicle from Aldgate: Life and Death in Shakespeare's London (New Haven, 1971), 95135Google Scholar and G. Twigg, ‘Plague in London: spatial and temporal aspects’, in Champion, Epidemic Disease in London, 13. Plague was not the only cause for selective reporting and John Graunt also noted that deaths from syphilis tended to be reported as anodyne ‘ulcers’ or ‘sores’, see his Natural and Political Observations (London, 1662)Google Scholar, reprinted in Laslett, P. (ed.), The Earliest Classics (Folkestone, 1973), 25Google Scholar.

25 G.L. MS. 4891, Charter, f. 2.

26 Christie, Parish Clerks, 139.

27 Ibid., 11, 55. P.R.O. SO3/5 December 1611, Incorporation of Parish Clerks. For the company's choice of their first printer, see Jackson, W.A. (ed.), Records of the Court of the Stationers' Company, 1602 to 1640 (London, 1957), 186Google Scholar, 18 April 1626.

28 Christie, Parish Clerks, 136. In 1663 the Archbishop of Canterbury was added to the list: ibid., 140–1.

29 C.L.R.O. Rep. lviii. f. 30, 4 December 1645.

30 The accounts submitted by successive Sergeants of the Channel, the municipal official who actually delivered the City's pamphlet to the monarch, which survive from 1676, indicate that the new Bill would be taken to wherever the monarch was that week, rather than simply carried to Whitehall to be forwarded on with other incoming correspondence. C.L.R.O. Misc. MS. 155.19, ‘Bills of Sergeant of the Channel for delivering the weekly Bills of Mortality.’

31 Christie, Parish Clerks, 136. G.L. MS. 3604/2 (part i), Bills of Mortality. ‘Manuscript narrative of ‘by what degree the Bills come to what they now are” (1680), ff. 5–7; C.L.R.O. Rep, xlv. f. 563v. 27 October 1631. On female death rates, see J.A.I. Champion, ‘Epidemics and the built environment in 1665’ in idem, Epidemic Disease in London, 49–52, as well as Slack, Impact of Plague, 179–81, who was less persuaded.

32 Christie, Parish Clerks, 137.

33 Adams, R.H., The Parish Clerks of London: A History of the Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks of London (Chichester, 1971), 51–6Google Scholar; C.L.R.O. Rep. xxxiii f. 307, 4 June 1618, for the Parish Clerks’ annual fee; Graunt, Natural and Political Observations, 11.

34 For single sheets, Christie, Parish Clerks, 139. Sir John Franklyn paid 3d. in 1625, Society of Antiquaries, MS. 133, Domestic and Personal Accounts of Sir John Franklyn of Willsden, Middlesex, 1624–1648, f. 7v., 27 June 1625.

35 The Parish Clerks' original ordinances and Court minutes were destroyed during the Blitz. Some antiquarian notes from the minutes transcribed before the war have been deposited at the Guildhall Library Manuscripts Room. G.L. MS. 3706, William McMurray, ‘Notes extracted from MS. destroyed in 1940’, f. 10, 8 January 1665/6 and 5 March 1665/6.

36 For the Parish Clerks' successive charters, P.R.O. SO3/5, December 1611; SO3/11, February 1635/6; SO3/12, f. 25, February 1638/9. Moreover the number of charters obtained by an otherwise minor guild testifies to the access that the parish clerks could gain to the Court. Cf. G.L. MS. 4893 ‘Original Documents Connected with the London Parish Clerks' Charter, 1635’, and also Adams, Parish Clerks of London, 42–3.

37 P.R.O. PSO5/7, February 1638/8, Parish Clerks' Charter. The wording in this, the abstract in the docket made when it passed the Privy Seal, differs from that noted in the Signet Office Docket Books cited above.

38 In 1604 in the aftermath of one of the worst bouts of plague of the whole century three extramural precincts and eight suburban parishes were added to the regular lists in the Bills: St Bartholomew the Great, Bridewell and Holy Trinity Minories, along with St Clement Danes, St Giles in the Fields and St Martin in the Fields to the west, St James Clerkenwell to the north, St Katherine by the Tower, St Leonard Shoreditch, St Mary Whitechapel to the east and, south of the river, St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey. Two years later, after another epidemic, the royal Duchy of Lancaster's chapel of St John Baptist of the Savoy followed. The City of Westminster was added in 1626. Graunt, Natural and Political Observations, 8.

39 By 1636 four more parishes to the north and east - Hackney, Islington, Rotherhithe and Stepney - had been included, besides two more Surrey parishes, Newington and, still more significantly, Lambeth, a ferry-ride across the Thames from Whitehall Palace. When St Paul's, Covent Garden, was made an independent parish it was also included. ‘By what degree the Bills came to what they are now’, f. 6; Harding, V.A., ‘The population of London, 1550–1700: a review of the published evidence’, London Journal, 15 (1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, ‘Appendix 2: the parish groupings of the Bills of Mortality’, 125.

40 The phrase is used in the Company's petition to King Charles, endorsed 13 November 1635, in G.L. MS. 4893, ‘Original Documents Connected with the London Parish Clerks’ Charter, 1635’. The same phrase was repeated in their new Charter, G.L. MS. 4891, f. 1.

41 Although John Graunt did comment that there had been ‘Seven Alterations and Augmentations of the published Bills between the years 1592 and 1662’, in Natural and Political Observations, a, ‘Index.’

42 Ibid., B1. For the bibliographical history of this pamphlet and an irenic survey of a protracted controversy over whether Graunt or Sir William Petty wrote it, see Keynes, G., A Bibliography of Sir William Petty F.R.S. and of Observations on the Bills of Mortality by John Graunt, F.R.S. (Oxford, 1971), 7582Google Scholar.

43 Although, when encountered at the Crown Tavern, he was ‘telling pretty stories’ about suicides. Pepys, S., The Diary of Samuel Pepys, ed. Latham, R.C. and Matthews, W., 11 vols (London, 19701983), 9Google Scholar, 1668–1669, 175,26 April 1668.

44 Graunt, Natural and Political Observations, A3.

45 Glass, D.V., ‘John Graunt and his Natural and Political Observations’, Proceedings of the Royal Society, ser. B, 49 (1963), 232Google Scholar.

46 Hacking, I., The Emergence of Probability: A Philosophical Study of Early Ideas About Probability, Induction and Statistical Inference (Cambridge, 1975), 102–10Google Scholar; also Sutherland, I., ‘John Graunt: a tercentenary tribute’, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, ser. A, 126 (1963), 537–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

47 Hence the efforts reported by I. Sutherland in ‘A summary tabulation of annual totals of burials, plague deaths and christenings in London prior to 1666; as recorded in the original Bills of Mortality and in contemporary abstracts from these Bills’ (May 1972, addenda 1986). A copy of this unpublished typescript is at G.L. fc.pam. 2041.

48 Christie, Parish Clerks, 136–7, citing a Company ordinance of 1609.

49 Defoe, D., A Journal of the Plague Year, ed. Landa, L. (Oxford, 1969, pbk. 1990; 1st pub. 1722), 7Google Scholar.

50 Slack, Impact of Plague, 147.

51 Graunt, Natural and Political Observations, 4.

52 Slack, P.A., ‘The response to plague in early modern England: public policies and their consequences’, in Walter, J. and Schofield, R. (eds), Famine, Disease and the Social Order in Early Modern Society (Cambridge, 1989), 168–84Google Scholar. The gradual extension of the early stages of an attack of the plague - spreading from house to house and parish to parish - is invoked by Andrew Appleby as evidence for its initially finding a hold among the rodent population: Appleby, A.B., ‘The disappearance of plague: a continuing puzzle’, Economic History Review, 2nd. ser., 33 (1980), 164CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed. See also L. Bradley, ‘Some medical aspects of plague’, and Biraben, J.-N., ‘Current medical and epidemiological views on plague’, both in The Plague Reconsidered: A New Look at its Origins and Effects in 16th and 17th Century England, Local Population Studies Supplement (Matlock, 1977), 15–17, 2536Google Scholar.

53 Acts of the Privy Council, 1623–1625, 505,25 March 1625.

54 Barroll, L., Politics, Plague, and Shakespeare's Theater: The Stuart Years (Ithaca, NY, 1991), 98100Google Scholar.

55 Howell, J., Epistolae Ho-Elianae: the Familiar Letters of James Howell, ed. Jacobs, J., 2 vols (London, 1892), I, 29Google Scholar, ‘1 May 1619’. Although the individual letters are all assigned dates, Howell's whole compilation dates from the 1640s.

56 During the 1592 epidemic recipients of manuscript copies of the weekly plague lists included residents of a small village in Somerset: Berry, H., ‘A London plague bill for 1592, Crich and Goodwyffe Hurde’, English Literary Renaissance, 25 (1995), 325CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Notes of the weekly totals of deaths from the plague in London between April 1625 and early March 1625/26 were included among miscellaneous memoranda at the back of the diary of William Whiteway, a Dorchester merchant: while Whiteway's access to reliable news about national politics was uncertain, he still received the metropolitan plague totals over forty-nine successive weeks. Whiteway, W., William Whiteway of Dorchester: His Diary, 1618–1635 (Dorchester, 1991), 165Google Scholar. On provincials' access to metropolitan news at this period, see Cust, R.P., ‘News and politics in early seventeenth-century England’, Past & Present, 112 (1986), 6090CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

57 Weekly totals for deaths from plague in London were reported in German merchants' correspondence in the 1590s, see von Klaswill, V. (ed.), The Fugger Newsletters, 2nd. ser., Queen Elizabeth (New York, 1926), 243, 248–52, 289Google Scholar. Comparisons were also possible, so that in September 1582, Maurice Browne wrote to John Thynne that ‘The plage increseth in London there died the last weake 160 of the plage’ as well as being ‘very hott in fraunce’, see Quinn, D.B. et al. (eds), New American World: A Documentary History of North America to 1612: 3, English Plans for North America. The Roanoke Voyages. New England Voyages (New York, 1979), 249Google Scholar. Notes on the totals dying in various epidemics can be seen in Historical Manuscripts Commission: 80, Calendar of the Manuscripts of Lord Sackville, 2. Fisher, F.J. (ed.), Letters Relating to Lionel Cranfield's Business Overseas, 1597–1612 (London, 1966), 3Google Scholar (Hamburg and Lubeck); 125 (Danzig) and 134 (London).

58 White, F., London's Warning to Jerusalem: A Sermon Preached at Paul's Crosse (London, 1619)Google Scholar, STC, 25386, 34. Part of this passage is quoted in Harley, D.N., ‘Medical metaphors in English moral theology, 1560–1660’, Journal of the History of Medicine, 98 (1993), 408Google Scholar.I am grateful to Mark Jenner for feeding me this reference. In his matriculation record White did describe himself as being from London: Foster, J., Alumni Oxoniensis 1500–1714, 4 vols (Oxford, 18911992), iii. 1613Google Scholar.

59 White's list also seems a foretaste of the wider circulation of reports of suicides in the provincial press, often based themselves on the London Bills of Mortality, that Michael MacDonald sees as central to changing perceptions of suicides by juries in Restoration and eighteenth-century England: MacDonald, M., ‘Suicide and the rise of the popular press in England’, Representations, 22 (1988), 3655CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.

60 A ‘Dr. Rossel’, cited in Parets, M., A Journal of the Plague Year: The Diary of the Barcelona Tanner Miquel Parets, 1651, ed. and trans. Amelang, J.S. (Oxford, 1991), 59Google Scholar. Also, Slack, Impact of Plague, 41–4, 167–9; idem. ‘The local incidence of epidemic disease: the case of Bristol 1540–1650’, in The Plague Reconsidered, 57. On the effectiveness for the richer sort of flight from an urban centre that did not have the administrative means of enforcing quarantine available to most municipal governments, see Willan, T.S., ‘Plague in perspective: the case of Manchester in 1605’, in Kermode, J.I. and Phillips, C.B. (eds), Seventeenth Century Lancashire: Essays Presented to J.J. Bagley, Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, 132 (Liverpool, 1983), 2940Google Scholar.

61 P.R.O. C115, N4/8607, 13 May 1636, Sir John Burgh to Viscount Scudamore. In 1606, during another bout of plague, John Chamberlain observed that ‘this last weekes increase makes us all startle.’ Chamberlain, J., The Letters of John Chamberlain, 2 vols, ed. McClure, N.E., American Philosophical Society, Memoirs, 12, pts i and ii (Philadelphia, 1939), i, 234Google Scholar. A partial run of weekly Bills from the summer of 1636 are in Bodleian Library, Gough Add. 40 95.

62 Arundel Castle Archives, Autograph Letters, 1632–1723, no. 362, 27 May 1636, Viscount Chaworth to Earl of Arundel. (I would like to thank the Duke of Norfolk for his kind permission to see these papers.) That week there was one plague death in the parishes within the City walls - in St Michael, Cornhill - otherwise all the deaths from the plague were in parishes to the east of the City or else south of the Thames: Bill of Mortality, 19–26 May 1636.

63 Arundel Castle Archives, Autograph Letters, 1632–1723, no. 365, 10 June 1636, Viscount Chaworth to Earl of Arundel. By the second last week of June, which is where we have the next surviving Bill, there was still only one plague death among the parishes within the walls, but there was now a plague death reported in the western parish of St Andrew, Holborn: Bill, 16–23 June 1636.

64 C.L.R.O. Rep. xlv. f. 3, 4 November 1630. They also cited a similar distinction being drawn between Whitefriars and the large parish of St Dunstan's in the West.

65 Defoe, journal of the Plague Year, 6–7. The desultory scholarly debate on Defoe's citing places in London in his journal has, unfortunately, focused on the topographical accuracy of each instance rather than considering their utility within the analysis in his narrative. Cf. Schonhorn, M., ‘Defoe's journal of the Plague Year: topography and intention’, Review of English Studies, 19 (1968), 387402CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

66 See also an anonymous Account of a Grocer in Wood Street, Cheapside, who preserved himself and his Family from Infection during the great Plague in 1665’, Gentleman's Magazine, 95 (1825), 311–16Google Scholar at p. 312, for an elaborate set of precautions that only went into effect in mid-July 1665, when the number dying within the walls reached fifty. For the charged context of Defoe's writing during the debates over government-enforced quarantine as a precaution against the 1720 epidemic in Marseilles, see Slack, Impact of Plague, 324–37.

67 Pepys's Diary, 6,1665,120–299, passim, June–November.

68 The various reshufflings and reorganizations that the collection where this correspondence survives, P.R.O. C115, ‘The Duchess of Norfolk's Deeds,’ has been subjected to means that it is difficult to tell whether Flower's observations were summaries of the information in the weekly Bills that he was adding to his letters to Scudamore, or if they were his comments on the main trends that he observed in copies of the Bills that were being forwarded with Scudamore's weekly packets of letters from the City. A copy of a weekly Bill of Mortality remains among Flower's letters, P.R.O. C115 M32/8211, Bill of Mortality, 13–20 December 1632. But this could be either an exceptional survivor from a longer series that has not been weeded out along with the other printed material that Flower and his fellow intelligencers were sending to Scudamore, or this sheet might equally be a stray copy, sent when Scudamore may have considered coming up from Herefordshire to London after Christmas. Scudamore's household accounts during his embassy in Paris do note considerable outlays on ‘intelligence’ but do not include any entries for his correspondents in London, who were probably paid through his agent in Westminster: Hereford Public Library, MS. Scudamore Accounts, 1635–1637, passim.

69 P.R.O. C115 M30/8076, Flower to Scudamore, 22 January 1630/1; M32/8184, same to same, 12 February 1630/31; M30/8077, same to same, 23 April 1631; M31/8133, same to same, 26 April 1631; M32/8187, same to same, 3 June 1631; M32 8188,26 July 1631; M30/8083, same to same, 6 August 1631.

70 P.R.O. C115 M30/8072, 29 July 1630, M32/8185, Flower to Scudamore; M32/8185, 26 February 1630/1, same to same.

71 P.R.O. C115 M30/8070, Flower to Scudamore, 24 July 1636; M31/8130, same to same, 8 January 1630/1.

72 P.R.O. C115 M32/8177, 20 May 1630, Flower to Scudamore, and M32/8178, 4 September 1630, same to same.

73 This emphasis contrasts with the striking of trial balances customary in appraising double entry accounts - the ‘Mathematiques of my Shop-Arithmatique’ that Graunt self-deprecatingly invoked - to which Philip Kreager has assigned a central role in the development of Graunt's analysis. Natural and Political Observations, A6; Kreager, P., ‘New Light on Graunt’, Population Studies, 42 (1988), 133–7CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.

74 P.R.O. C115 M31/8125, 20 March 1629/30, Flower to Scudamore; M30/8075, 17 December 1630, same to same. On city walls as an effective barrier to rodent-born diseases, see Slack, "The response to plague in early modern England’, 180.

75 P.R.O. C115 M31/8136, 18 June 1631, Flower to Scudamore. The following week he observed that ‘onlie one’ died of the plague ‘in the pest house all other places continuing yet clear’: M31/8135, 25 June 1631, same to same. Although the plague bacillus was resilient, and infected fleas could survive unfed for up to twenty-nine days, medical historians stress that for infected people ‘the first and third weeks were… the most lethal’ and news about waning death rates of this sort could indeed mark more than a remission: Slack, Impact of Plague, 421, n. 34. The phrase is from Biraben, ‘Current medical and epidemiological views’, 28, citing data from 61 cases in 1899. He also observes that the bacillus can survive in ‘the microclimate of rodents’ burrows': ibid., 26.

76 For the phrase, see Dekker, T., The Plague Pamphlets of Thomas Dekker, ed. Wilson, F.P. (Oxford, 1925), 8Google Scholar.

77 He could assume that Viscount Scudamore knew his way around London, so that a week when the total number of deaths within the City walls rose could be explained as the reinfection of ‘an in[n] in Milkstreet’, just north of Cheapside. P.R.O. C115 M30/8081, 2 July 1631, Flower to Scudamore.

78 P.R.O. C115 M31/8124, 13 March 1629/30, Flower to Scudamore, and M31/8125, 20 March 1629/30, same to same, for Whitechapel and Shoreditch; M30/8085, 24 September 1631, same to same, for Southwark; M32/8189, n.d., same to same, ‘out places”.

79 Other correspondents of Scudamore could also draw wider comparisons, particularly in proffering the unfamiliar argument that London offered ‘the healthiest dwelling’ when ‘ague’ left Gloucestershire with ‘at one tyme eyght hundred sick in its howses[,] in Sussex four hundred’. The currency of comparative categories was suggested in a further observation that ‘divers other towns and villages’ were infected ‘proportional’. P.R.O. C115 N8/8822, Sir John Finet to Scudamore, 5 September 1638.

80 I have used the run at the Guildhall Library.

81 Bill for 10–17 November 1603.

82 For a sketch of the literary evidence for the fluctuation of the disease during 1603–5, Barroll, Politics, Plague, and Shakespeare's Theater, 101–16.

83 Weekly totals for burials for all causes between March to June remained under a hundred and in at least one instance fell to twenty-four, while the numbers reported as dying from the plague fluctuated between nine and twenty. Bills of Mortality for 22 March 1603/4–29 March 1604; 29 March–5 April 1604; 5–12 April 1604; 24–31 May 1604; 31 May–7 June 1604; 7–14 June 1604. Paul Slack points out that Southampton, with its cross-Channel contacts and sizable emigre population was particularly liable to the plague: Impact of Plague, 142. Plague did reach Southampton that summer and the wife of Lambert's steward was among the casualties: Rutherford, , Stockwell Papers, I, 23–7Google Scholar.

84 Adams, W., Adams's Chronicle of Bristol, ed. Fox, F.F. (Bristol, 1910), 178Google Scholar. None of the ‘tickets’ appears to survive.

85 For proclamations delaying the law terms or fairs in the London area because of plague, see Larkin, J.P. and Hughes, P.L. (eds), Stuart Royal Proclamations, 1, Royal Proclamations of King James 1,1603–1625 (Oxford, 1973), 32–5,40–1,46–7,56–60,148–51,230–2Google Scholar.

86 I have addressed this topic at greater length in my Ph.D. thesis, ‘London 1580–1642: the view from Whitehall, the view from the Guildhall’ (unpublished, Washington University, St Louis, 1993), 130236Google Scholar.

87 Graunt, Natural and Political Observations, A5; Webster, C., The Great Insuration: Science, Medicine and Reform, 1626–1660 (London, 1976), 445–6Google Scholar; also Kreager, ‘New light on Graunt’, 129–40.

88 Graunt, Natural and Political Observations, A3.

89 Howell, , Epistolae Ho-Elianae, I, 218Google Scholar. Howell assigns a date of 11 December 1625 to this letter.

90 Graunt, Natural and Political Observations, 31.

91 Cf. Finlay, R.A.P., ‘The accuracy of the London parish registers, 1580–1653’, Population Studies, 32 (1978), 95112Google ScholarPubMed. On the standards of parochial registration in one prosperous London parish in the later seventeenth century, see Porter, S., ‘Death and burial in a London parish: St. Mary Woolnoth 1653–99’, London Journal, 8 (1982), 7680CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

92 C.L.R.O. Rep. lxx, f. 3,8 November 1664; f. 152v., 10 August 1665.

93 Forbes, ‘The searchers’, 1031–8. The bulk of these critical comments come from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when plague was no longer a major threat.

94 Bodleian Library, Rawlinson C. 406, ff. 84–5. Two late seventeenth-century sextons’ day books from a suburban parish suggest that Betts's hopes to compile data at this level might well have proved feasible in parishes where the inhabitants continued to be buried in the parish graveyard. Forbes, T.R., ‘Sexton's day books for 1685–1687 and 1694–1703 from the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London’, Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 46 (1973), 142–50Google Scholar.

95 Graunt, Natural and Political Observations, 12.

96 On these problems, see Harding, V.A., ’“And one more may be laid there”: the location of burials in early modern London’, London Journal, 14 (1989), 112–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and idem, ‘Burial of the plague dead in early modern London’, in Champion, Epidemic Disease in London, 53–64.

97 Halley, E., Degrees of Mortality of Mankind, ed. Reed, L.J. (Baltimore, 1942)Google Scholar.

98 C.L.R.O. Remb. vi. f. 5, no. 63, Lord Mayor to Privy Council, n.d., but in reply, ibid., ff. 4–5, no. 62, Privy Council to Lord Mayor, 20 July 1625.

99 Brett-James, Growth of Stuart London, 223–38; Barnes, T.G., ‘The prerogative and environ-mental control of London building in the early seventeenth century: the lost opportunity’, California Law Review, 58 (1970), 1332–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Slack, P.A., ‘Books of orders: the making of English social policy, 1577–1631’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th. ser., 30 (1980), 122CrossRefGoogle Scholar; D. Howarth, ‘The politics of Inigo Jones’, in idem (ed.), Art and Patronage in the Caroline Courts: Essays in Honour of Sir Oliver Millar (Cambridge, 1993), 68–89.

100 C.L.R.O. Remb. vii (Clitherow) f. 12, no. 178, Lord Mayor and commonality of the Citizens of London to Charles, 26 April 1636. Pearl, V.L., London and the Outbreak of the Puritan Revolution: City Government and National Politics (Oxford, 1961), 31Google Scholar, citing Privy Council Register for ‘Lambeth, St. Mary Newington, Redriffe [Rotherhithe], St. Mary Islington, Stepney, and Hackney in the counties of Middlesex and Surrey’.