Is history doomed to repeat itself?


  • Specializes in oncology. Has 46 years experience.

Plague and Protest Go Hand in Hand


Starting with the Black Death, in 1348, and continuing for more than 300 years, Europe was struck with incessant waves of plague. In England, this proved especially deadly between 1563 and 1666, when multiple epidemics hit London. The social response generated by these outbreaks mirrors what we are experiencing today. Plague and protest, in short, are correlated.

An interesting correlation with what has been happening of late. Public health measures then were not followed. How do we encourage compliance without physical punishments to enforce compliance? This problem is a lot older than I thought.


Lack of compliance posed a constant problem. The Privy Council condemned “the great negligence and remiss slackness of the citizens” who refused to follow public health protocol. Robert Cecil, advisor to Queen Elizabeth I, complained about the “unruly infected.” Subsequent Plague Orders added physical punishments to enforce compliance. Starting in 1604, anyone found in public with plague sores could be hanged, and anyone who secretly escaped household quarantine could be whipped.