Thursday, 29 April 2010

Moving on from the Dresskeeper...

Hello readers and welcome back to my blog.

Sorry it’s been so long since I last wrote, but I have been working hard on my new book The Plaguemaker. It is a ghost story based on The Great Plague of 1665. As I mentioned a few months ago, the book sees our protagonist Blessie haunted by a girl who died during the plague because her father is building over one of the many plague pits that were dug in London.

This blog will now be looking at the plague. I have finished writing all of the history that I can about The Dresskeeper and I need to keep this fresh to keep you readers happy. So now, without further ado, let’s talk about the Bubonic Plague. It’s not pretty.

The Bubonic Plague was a horrible disease that was caused, according to the Centre for Disease Control, by fleas that had been infected by bacteria called Yersinia Pestis. The fleas got the bacteria from the rats that were carrying the disease in their bloodstream. So, not surprisingly, rats also had a major part to play in the whole affair too.

Once a person was infected, it took between two to six days to become ill. The early symptoms included fever, chills, headache, exhaustion, vomiting, stomach pain, bloody diarrhoea, and of course the swollen glands, or ‘bubo’ that would appear in the armpit, neck or groin.

It became worse when the bacteria multiplied in the bloodstream and caused a septicaemic plague, which would add delirium and a rapid heart rate to the symptoms. Once it spread to the lungs, the person become infected with a pneumonic plague. This would lead to breathing difficulties and the coughing up of blood. And eventually death.

The Great Plague of 1665 killed around 100,000 people in the capital alone. However, a really bad case of the plague happened not in London but in Derbyshire, in a town called Eyam, all because of a box of laundry. A traveller had brought a box of clothes to the small town, a box that just happened to be filled with infected fleas. About 80% of the population died. This could have spread all over Derbyshire, if it wasn’t for William Mompesson, who said it was important to wait for the plague to run its course in the town and that people needed to stay put and not venture into the countryside. His wife was one of the victims of the plague. This is in great contrast to King Charles II who promptly left London to escape the plague, along with many of London’s wealthy, and its doctors.

The Great Plague was not the worst case to hit this country. The Black Death of 1348-1350 killed over a quarter of the population; 1.5 million out of 4 million people of Medieval England died. Around 20 million people across Europe fell victim to this horrible disease. There was mass hysteria, a breakdown of social order, and people thought it was some kind of apocalypse. For those who were still able to walk the streets it was difficult not to walk past a dead body. Mass death had become normal and to those affected, it seemed as if the end of the world was near.

NEXT WEEK: More on the Black Death of the 1300s.

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