Natural and Political Observations Made upon the Bills of Mortality (Graunt 1676)/Chapter 4

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Of the Plague.


1.  BEfore we leave to discourse of the Casualties, we shall add something concerning that greatest Disease or Casualty of all, The Plague.

There have been in London, within this Age, four times of great Mortality, that is to say, the years 1592 and 1593, 1603, 1625 and 1636.

[1]There died Anno 1592. from March to December, 25886
Whereof of the Plague 11503
Anno 1593, 17844
Whereof of the Plague 10662
Christned in the said year 4021
Anno 1603, within the same space of time, were Buried 37294
Whereof of the Plague 30561
Anno 1625, within the same space 51758
Whereof of the Plague 35417
Anno 1636, from April to Decemb. 23359
Whereof of the Plague 10460 |47|
2. Now it is manifest of it self, in which of these years most died; but in which of them was the greatest Mortality of all Diseases in general, or of the Plague in particular, we discover thus. In the Years 1592, and 1636, we find the proportion of those dying of the Plague in the whole to be near alike, that is, about 10 to 23, or 11 to 25, or as about 2 to 5.

3. In the Year 1625, we find the Plague to bear unto the whole in proportion as 35 to 51, or 7 to 10, that is almost the triplicate of the former proportion; for the Cube of 7 being 343, and the Cube of 10 being 1000, the said 343 is not 15[2] of 1000.

4. In Anno 1603, the proportion of the Plague to the whole was as 30 to 37, viz. as 4 to 5, which is yet greater than the last of 7 to 20[3]: For if the year 1625 had been as great a Plague year as 1603, there must have died not only 7 to 10, but 8 to 10, which in those great numbers makes a vast difference.

5. We must therefore conclude the year 1603 to have been the greatest Plague year of this Age.

6 Now to know in which of these four was the greatest Mortality at large, we reason thus: |48|

There died in the whole year of all
1 to 8, or
114 to 10
Died in the whole year
There died, ut supra,

7. From whence it appears, That Anno 1636, the Christnings were about 25 parts of the Burials: Anno 1592 but 16; but in the year 1603, and 1625, not above an eighth: so that the said two years were the years of greatest Mortality. We said that the year 1603 was the greatest Plague year. And now we say, that the same was not a greater year of Mortality than Anno 1625. Now to reconcile these two Positions, we must alledge, that Anno 1625, there was an errour in the Accompts or Distinctions of the Casualties; that is, more died of the Plague than were re-|49|counted for under that name, Which Allegation we also prove thus, viz.

8. In the said year 1625 there are said to have died of the Plague 35417, and of all other Diseases 18848; whereas in the years, both before and after the same, the ordinary number of Burials was between 7 and 8000; so that if we add about 11000 (which is the difference between 7 and 18) to our 35, the whole will be 46000, which bears to the whole 54000, as about 4 to 5, thereby rendring the said year 1625 to be as great a Plague-year as that of 1603, and no greater; which answers to what we proved before, viz. that the Mortality of the two years was equal[4].

9. From whence we may probably suspect, that about ¼ part more died of the Plague than are returned for such; which we further prove by noting, that Anno 1636 there died 10400 of the Plague, the ¼ whereof is 2600. Now there are said to have died of all other Diseases that Year 12959, out of which number deducing 2600, there remain 10359, more than which there died not in several years next before and after the said Year 1636.

10. The next Observation we shall offer is, That the Plague of 1603 lasted eight Years. |50| In some whereof there died above 4000, in others above 2000, and in but one fewer than 600: whereas in the Year 1624 next preceding, and in the Year 1626 next following the said great Plague-year 1625, there died in the former but 11, and in the later but 134 of the Plague. Moreover, in the said Year 1625, the Plague decreased from its utmost number 4461 a week, to below 1000 within six weeks.

11. The Plague of 1636 lasted twelve Years, in eight whereof there died 2000 per annum one with another, and never under 300. The which shews, that the Contagion of the Plague depends more upon the Disposition of the Air, than upon the Effluvia from the Bodies of men.

12. Which also we prove by the suddain jumps which the Plague hath made, leaping in one Week from 118 to 927; and back again from 993 to 258; and from thence again the very next Week to 852. The which Effects must surely be rather attributed to change of the Air, than of the Constitution of Mens Bodies, otherwise than as this depends upon that.

13. It may be also noted, That many times other Pestilential Diseases, as Purple Fevers, Small-Pox, &c. do fore-run the Plague a |51| Year, two or three; for in 1622 there died but 8000: in 1623, 11000: in 1624, about 12000: till in 1625 there died of all Diseases above 54000.


  1. On the trustworthiness of the following figures see the notes to the "Table shewing how many died weekly," p. 426.
  2. 1st. ed., '25,' German transl., 'nicht 13.'
  3. 20 is a misprint for 10.
  4. The report of a case of the plague in any family led to the "shutting up" of the house infected, and thus increased the danger of the other members of the household. This danger was probably avoided, in many cases, by bribing the searchers. Creighton, i. 312, 318, 663, 67a, also in Social England, iv. 469. The probable concealment of the plague was noted at the time. Salvetti's Correspondence, 11 July, 1625, Hist. MSS. Com. xi. pt. i. p. 26—27; Rev. Joseph Mead to Sir Martin Stuteville, Birch, Court and Times of Charles I., vol. i. p. 39.