How England First Managed a National Infection Crisis: The Plague Orders of 1578
35 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2020 Publication Status: Under Review
The current Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown in the UK have parallels with the first ever national management of epidemic infection in England, the Plague Orders of 1578. Combining historical research of the Tudor and Stuart periods with information sources and broadcast news as the epidemic in England unfolds in real time during lockdown, the areas of official guidance, epidemiology, social distancing and quarantine, financing measures, the national health service, fake news and burial of the dead are compared. Then as now, social distancing and quarantine measures were applied for the sake of preserving life, loss of livelihood ameliorated by government loans and dangerous opinions suppressed, the flight to second homes by the rich observed and health inequities uncovered. Taxation of the wealthiest in a parish to pay for measures and promotion of home remedies and over-the-counter preparations are among the differences of the early modern period. Wholly unprecedented in comparison with the past is the quarantining of the whole society and the financial package for workers on furlough to avoid mass unemployment. In the new, less polluted normal after lockdown, people should be given more credit for sophisticated understanding than was allowed in past centuries when fear and punishment coerced the majority to conform and share in decisions about national and community life.
Keywords: covid-19, bubonic plague, government measures, quarantine, second homes
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation