Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Mapping the Great Plague of London

It is estimated that in the Seventeenth Century the Great Plague of London killed off nearly a quarter of the city's population.

One of the best accounts of the plague is Daniel Defoe's Journal of the Plague Year. There is some debate as to whether Defoe's Journal should be read as a work of fiction or non-fiction. The book was originally published under the initials H.F. and many critics believe it was based on the journals of Defoe's uncle, Henry Defoe, with sparing invented detail from Daniel Defoe himself.

A “Frightful Number!” – Mapping Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year is an interactive map and timeline of events depicted in Defoe's novel. The events in the novel are plotted on top of a vintage 1720 map of London.

You can use the forward and back arrows beneath the map to navigate chronologically through the plotted events from Defoe's Journal. The events are also listed chronologically beneath the map in table format. The location links in the table can be clicked on to view them plotted on the map.

The project includes an extensive 'About' page which details how the project was created, including an explanation as to how to geo-rectify vintage maps and overlay them on a Leaflet map.

In the summer of 1665 London experienced a huge rise in the numbers of people dying from the Bubonic Plague. The Guardian has used historical data from the Bills of Mortality to chart the progression of the plague parish by parish over the course of the summer.

In Mapping London's Great Plague of 1665 the newspaper has created a dot density map showing the number of plague burials by parish per week. Underneath the dot map an interactive graph allows you to view the number of burials in total per week. You can use the graph to select a week to view on the map.

When you select a week on the graph the map updates to show the number of burials in each parish for that week. You can mouse-over the individual parishes on the map to view the number of burials in the parish for the week. Above the month you can also see the total number of plague burials in London for the selected week.

If you want to read more first hand accounts of London's Great Plague then you can also consult the Diaries of Samuel Pepys. Phil Gyford's Pepys Diary is probably one of the longest running interactive mapping projects on the web. It is also one of the best 'book maps', where locations in a text have been plotted on an interactive map.

Every day Pepys Diary publishes an excerpt from the diaries (one taken from the same calendar date). All the locations in the diary entry are links, which when clicked on show you the location on an interactive map of London. The site also includes a search facility which allows you to search for Pepys' diary entries which mention the 'plague' or the 'Bills of Mortality'.
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