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Effects of Covid-19 on our society foretold by Defoe long ago

Daniel Carey


Daniel Defoe's 1722 work of fiction about the Great Plague in London still has much to teach us as we struggle today, writes Daniel Carey

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Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe

Pandemics of the past have taken on fresh interest as we find ourselves confronted by a novel virus in Covid-19. Daniel Defoe's 1722 work of historical fiction, A Journal of the Plague Year, describes the Great Plague that afflicted London in 1665-66 and claimed upwards of 100,000 lives, offering remarkable insight into public health and the psychology of infectious disease.

Defoe (famous for his novel of isolation and self-reliance, Robinson Crusoe) wrote in a time when the cause of the plague remained an object of speculation - it wasn't understood until the 19th Century that infected fleas borne by rats were responsible - but the challenges that confronted a major city in the midst of an outbreak have some striking parallels with our own situation.


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