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The London Bills of Mortality Symposium, Folger Shakespeare Library

In May, I was delighted to be included in the London Bills of Mortality Symposium convened by the Folger Shakespeare Library and organized by Vanessa Harding and Kristen Heitman. The event brought together eminent plague scholars, including Paul Slack, Vanessa Harding, Richelle Munkhoff, Rebecca Totaro, Mark Jenner and Margaret Pelling, amongst many others, to examine the London Bills of Mortality. The material covered over the two-day symposium saw attendees examining in the greatest of detail the London bills of mortality, with sessions discussing how the bills were produced, used, interpreted, as well as related considerations of some of the citizens involved in the bills, from the women searchers, who established the cause of death and reported the dead, to early demographers, William Petty and John Graunt.

I came away from the Symposium with new directions for my own research, and in particular an interest in researching the process of printing the bills of mortality during the 1665 outbreak of plague in London. Below is the reproduction of a title page from a 1665 collection of the London bills of mortality, including those produced during the Great Plague of London.

Wellcome Library no. 1997i, London's Dreadful Visitation, Title page to a statistical analysis of mortality during the plague epidemic in London of 1665. Etching, 18--. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY-SA 4.0.

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