Bill of Mortality from 1665 London
The above record from August 15 - 22 captures a glimpse into a week of life (and death) in London during the 'Great Plague' of 1665-1666.
After repeated outbreaks of bubonic plague in London throughout the 1600's, officials began compiling Bills of Mortality, a weekly tally of deaths throughout all 130 parishes in the city of roughly 460,000.
As stated in Craig Spence's blog Bills of Mortality:
"The content of the Bills was provided by the parish clerks who reported weekly accounts from each parish to the Hall of the Company of Parish Clerks. The Company then collated and printed a weekly sheet; one side held a listing of the number of burials by parish and from the mid 17th century the reverse listed a summary count of those killed by named ‘diseases and casualties’. These covered a wide range of illnesses some of which are readily identifiable to the modern reader and some which are not. The cuases of sudden violent death are more explicable, and often provide additional information. Murders are baldly stated however the reporting of suicides uses the phrasing ‘killed himself’ or ‘herself’, hence gender can be deduced, and an agency or method of death is also frequently given. The same is true of accidental deaths, including drowning, but with the additional information of parish of death or burial."
As can be seen in this week's bill, 166 souls came into this world as 5,319 exited. By a huge margin, plague takes the prize for most lives claimed, with an honorable mention going to Feaver and Purples?
Fun Fact: If "Rising of the Lights", "Chrisomes" or "Griping in the Guts" is a bit confusing, modern-day translations for most Bill of Mortality diseases can be found at homeoint.org, courtesy of Sylvain Cazalet.