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January 19, 1976

The Ebb and Flow of Infection

Author Affiliations

From the Civil Service Department, Medical Adviser's Office, Whitehall, London, England.

JAMA. 1976;235(3):269-272. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03260290027020

AT THE beginning of the 18th century the land now occupied by the shopping center of London was quite rural. In it were three or four isolated mansions on the grounds of which game could be shot, while nearby, carts lumbered between hedgerows. Included there was, as Macaulay tells in his History of England, "a field not to be passed without shudder by any Londoner of that age. There, as in a place far from the haunts of men, had been dug some years before, when the great plague was raging, a pit into which the dead carts had nightly shot corpses by the score." Sixty years after the Great Plague (1665) this "Pest Field" was still unbuilt on, being reserved for use as a burial place in the event of a further visitation. But the plague, which had ranged throughout England with periodic exacerbation for more than three centuries