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A Journal of the Plague Year (Dover Thrift Editions) 1St Edition Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0486419190
ISBN-10: 0486419193
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

English author Daniel Defoe was at times a trader, political activist, criminal, spy and writer, and is considered to be one of England s first journalists. A prolific writer, Defoe is known to have used at least 198 pen names over the course of a career in which he produced more than five hundred written works. Defoe is best-known for his novels detailing the adventures of the castaway Robinson Crusoe, which helped establish and popularize the novel in eighteenth century England. In addition to Robinson Crusoe, Defoe penned other famous works including Captain Singleton, A Journal of the Plague Year, Captain Jack, Moll Flanders and Roxana. Defoe died in 1731.
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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Thrift Editions
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; 1St Edition edition (November 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486419193
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486419190
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #211,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I must admit to a morbid fascination with accounts of natural disasters, harrowing exploration tales and historical plagues. This ostensibly first-hand account of the 1665 visitation of the Black Death upon London, written by Daniel DeFoe, certainly fits nicely into that genre. I say "ostensibly", because while Defoe was alive at the time of the event, he was a very young child and wrote this work in 1722. Therefore, while we can be assured that many of the accounts therein are largely accurate, it would be stretch to label it as strictly non-fiction.

This is not a spellbinding or even captivating read. It is full of statistics and seemingly never ending references to specific neighborhoods and precincts as existed in London at the time. Much of the book is taken up with body counts and comparisons of mortality from time to time in the different areas of London and its environs. As most people have no geographic knowledge of the area, this is largely wasted, except to realize that, "Gee, a lot of people died in Whiteside, but not so many in Wapping."

Sprinkled throughout this relatively short work (under 200 dense pages), are interesting anecdotes, and this is the beauty of the book; the actions and reactions of everyday people to the scourge within their midst. How did the authorities address the problem? What was the medical knowledge and prevailing treatments as existed at the time? What did people in London do when commerce and society effectively broke down? What did they do to acquire food? How were the bodies disposed of? All intriguing and practical questions that are asked and answered herein.
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Format: Paperback
Fiction it might be, though apparently based on the diaries of his uncle Henry Foe (the H.F. who purportedly authors the account) Daniel Defoes "Journal of the Plague Year" is a fascinating account of the Bubonic plague that struck London in the year 1665.

While essentially a work of fiction, the level of detail, the statistics, anecodotes and endless conjecturing give the work a strong semblance of veracity. The reader is compelled to read on through the terrifying details of a plague that in all probability took around 100,000 lives during the year that it raged. One of the interesting features of the book is the conflict between science and religion, is a continuous thread throughout. Defoes author H.F. writes in a profoundly religous tone, early on in the book a group of mocking aetheists who coarsely drink and curse their way through the plague are, each and everyone, struck down and deposited in the communal grave before two pages are out. At the same time there is a recognition of scientific attempts to understand and control the plague, the shutting up of houses is much discussed as well as the variety of "preventatives" that offer protection from infection. Much of the book is given over to a variety of speculations, and given the state of medical science at the time of writing a good many of the conjectures verge on the amusing. The author even tells of one theory, of small organisms in the blood, only to scoff at it while the modern reader may sense as good a description of bacteria as that age could furnish.
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I was torn between rating this a 3 or a 4...it is an interesting account of the plague written 60 years after the fact. A Journal of the Plague Year is written in a journalistic style which is interesting - but it is not broken into chapters or sections - which makes it heavy going. I thought the content of the book brought up many interesting facts, conditions, concerns of the time - such as shutting up people in their houses should someone fall ill. As other people have remarked - the content of the book has an authority that makes it seem as if Defoe was alive when the plague was raging - but he was not.

The style of writing is old (understandably).

It is worth considering if interested in plagues or London history...but for such a small book it took a lot of time to get through it.
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Daniel Defoe wrote this based on another's first hand account and added some artistic license but nevertheless it reads like a factual and at times terrifying account of how the citizens of London reacted to a horrific epidemic in the 17th century. At times it felt like I was reading an episode of the Walking Dead as people banded together in groups and tried to isolate themselves from infection. The book does start slowly with an accounting of the dead by section of the city over time to demonstrate the rapid spread of the disease and some of these passages may be a bit dry. However when the anecdotal stories of individuals and the narrator himself are related the book is remarkably tense and engaging despite some archaic language.
For anyone interested in the subject this is actually a more detailed and fascinating account than the one in Samuel Pepys diary of the same period. A short read but one that will truly result in an understanding of a dark episode in London's history.
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