The eleven plagues of Edinburgh

The eleven plagues of Edinburgh

By W. J. MacLennan

Proceedings of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Vol.31 (2001)

Introduction: Much has been written about the attack of the Black Death on London in 1348 where, between 2 February and 2 April, there were 2,000 corpses thrown into a single mass grave, and over the whole course of the outbreak between a quarter and half of the population succumbed to it. Every schoolchild knows about the Great Plague of London in 1665. Defoe painted a particularly vivid picture with all the streets of London deserted, and whole families of rotting corpses found unburied in their houses. The fact that he was only eight years old during the plague, and did not write about it until 1722, was not allowed to stand in the way of a good story.

Much less is known about the plague in Edinburgh. The most recent account was given in Comrie’s History of Medicine in Scotland. This uses as sources the Scotichronicon of Bower, a fifteenth century canon from the monastery at Inchcolm, and Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh.

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