Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

The R rate revisited

One consequence of coronavirus is that since March we have all - all of us - become instant experts in virology. Frankly looking at the range of professional opinion anybody seems able to hold forth on some aspect of the matter with a reasonable likelihood of being right and of being listened to.

In this media maelstrom it is quite comforting to escape as a historian to the emotional tranquility of pandemics of the distant past, and notably the Black Death of 1348-50 and the London Plague of 1665. Doing so puts the present situation in context and makes one respect or admire the relative stoicism of past eras.

The MailOnline has an article drawing upon recent research looking at the spread of disease in those two terrible visitations. It is a measure of how London has grown and become congested that the plague spread, it is calculated, four times as quickly in 1665 as it had just over three centuries earlier. The article can be seen at Plague spread FOUR TIMES faster in London in 1665 than in 1348

The 1665 Plague year has a particular interest for me as some of my ancestors were definitely caught up in it when it spread to Eyam in Derbyshire, and where the village famously quarantined itself.

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