This teaching module offers an array of evidence to investigate the experience of children during the Black Death and question the traditional view that the epidemic caused wide-spread social chaos resulting in the abandonment of family members, even of children by their parents.
Health and sickness, as it pertains to children and youth in Early Modern England, is examined through an array of primary sources that illuminate both the perils of childhood in that age and the measures taken for the care of the ill and the emotional investment of families in caring for them.
Edward Jenner (1749-1823) was a physician in rural Gloucestershire. Like Lady Mary Wortley Montagu he learnt of a widely known folk remedy to protect against smallpox. Smallpox cases were increasing in the 18th century and had a mortality rate of… [more]
This print is by Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) and is dated 1787. It is a satirical comment upon the real practice of rich gentlemen and ladies of the 18th century paying for teeth to be pulled from poor children and transplanted in their gums. The… [more]
This beautiful life-size painting of four children is by William Hogarth, who also specialized in engravings such as Gin Lane. It was commissioned by Daniel Graham, a rich apothecary (pharmacist) to the royal family and to Chelsea Hospital in London.… [more]
Infanticide or the killing of a baby was punishable by hanging in early modern England. Unlike married women accused of infanticide, the mere fact that single women had tried to conceal the death of their babies was considered proof of murder under… [more]
Robert Willan (1757-1812) was a physician who practiced in London. Like Sydenham he was fascinated by the relation of weather to epidemics and kept strict records on when they occurred over several years. He was particularly interested in the… [more]
The English lawyer John Evelyn (1620-1706) kept a diary for nearly 50 years and in it recorded his grief at the death of four of his children. John and Mary Evelyn had eight children altogether: Richard (1652–8), John Standsfield (1653–4), John… [more]
During the great outbreak of bubonic plague or black death in the hot summer of 1665 in London, special bills of mortality were issued that listed causes of death. By mid-July over a thousand deaths a week were reported on handbills that were stuck… [more]
This is one of the best-known prints by the famous artist, William Hogarth. He designed it to support the British government's attempt to regulate the price and popularity of drinking gin (known as Geneva) in the Gin Act of 1751. The print is… [more]