Contagion and Plague in the Eighteenth Century

  • Margaret DeLacy


DeLacy discusses ideas about the plague and the response to the epidemic in Marseilles in 1720. Arguments about the value of quarantines and other preventive measures drew on competing theories about its cause. Fearing it might spread to Britain, the government commissioned a report from Sloane’s friend Richard Mead, whose Short Discourse concerning Pestilential Contagion became a classic work. DeLacy summarizes the debates it generated, relating them to underlying religious and political affiliations. She then looks at discussions of plague prevention and quarantines during the rest of the century. She explains how belief in the contagiousness of plague interacted with its depiction as a separate species of disease, not a severe degree of fever, and shows that the contagionists mistakenly thought they had won the argument.


Contagious Disease Eighteenth Century Yellow Fever Venereal Disease British Government 
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