The Great Plague
When Death Came to Cambridge in 1665
In this intimate history of the extraordinary Black Plague pandemic that swept through the British Isles in 1665, Evelyn Lord focuses on the plague’s effects on smaller towns, where every death was a singular blow affecting the entire community. Lord’s fascinating reconstruction of life during plague times presents the personal experiences of a wide range of individuals, from historical notables Samuel Pepys and Isaac Newton to common folk who tilled the land and ran the shops. She brings this dark era to vivid life through stories of loss and survival from those who grieved, those who fled, and those who hid to await their fate.
“The Great Plague of 1665 is too often seen as a metropolitan disaster, even though it brought death and dislocation across much of southern and eastern England. This timely study of Cambridge provides a thorough and imaginative account of the crisis which the epidemic inflicted upon the town, describing the impact upon its society and the experiences of individual families. In doing so it makes a valuable addition to both the literature on the Great Plague and the history of the town.”—Stephen Porter, author of The Great Plague
“Rich in the sights and sounds and smells of a seventeenth-century city, this is an evocative portrait of a teeming social world shattered by epidemic disease. Evelyn Lord’s adroit and sensitive reconstruction of daily routines and the urban landscape cranks up the tension as plague advances steadily towards its victims. We follow people down winding streets and alleys and peer into homes, finding there pitiful scenes of the dead and the dying and the distressed. Lord’s tale is horrific yet ultimately uplifting as life crowds back into the spaces left by the grim reaper—panic and misery followed by hope and recovery.”—Malcolm Gaskill, author of Witchfinders: A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy