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September 20, 1965


JAMA. 1965;193(12):1048. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03090120056015

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This gruesome exhortation brings to mind the Great Plague of London, which reached a peak just 300 years ago. Plague, one of the great afflictions of mankind, has a long history whose origins are obscure. Its greatest outbreak, the black death, wiped out a fourth of the population of Europe in the 14th century. In 1665, London, with a population totaling some 460,000, had deaths amounting to almost 70,000, a mortality estimate that may very well be too low (See cover).

Contemporary documents offer a fascinating account. Most readily available are the diaries of Samuel Pepys, in which the entries for 1665 indicate the degree to which the plague, in its rise and decline, affected a well-to-do Englishman. Business and social events went on, pretty much as usual, and the war with Holland greatly concerned the merchants. On June 20, for example a victory over the Dutch was far more

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