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Review: Eyam Plague: 1665-6

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John Clifford, (1995) Eyam Plague: 1665-1666 (Eyam: John Clifford) (pb).

Since the early eighteenth century, numerous historical accounts of the Eyam plague have been published claiming to offer the 'definitive account' of the catastrophe. Those produced in the last fifty years have been much more attuned than their predecessors to the challenging questions of interpretation, partiality and uncertainty which haunt the fragmentary historical records of the plague.

Cover of Eyam Plague 1665-1666Clifford's work, first published in 1989, is widely accepted as the leading scholarly account of the plague for the general reader. Clifford's authority on the plague is rarely in doubt, and while researching Year of Wonders, author Geraldine Brooks recognised the need to make use of his expertise.

Making use of the existing literature and integrating a variety of unpublished material for the historical archive, Clifford's work presents a clear chronological account of the plague's arrival and spread throughout the village. It documents its devastating effects on both individual families and the community as a whole, and focuses on the developments that led to the introduction of the quarantine that has become the central theme in understanding both the spread of the plague and its containment within the boundaries of the village. The booklet concludes with a perceptive study of the discrepancies apparent in the various registers of plague victims compiled at the time and since.

Incorporating several black-and-white photographs of several of the key historical sites, Clifford's work is an indispensable source for those wishing to access a brief, focused and intelligible account of the Eyam plague. Available from discerning online retailers, the booklet can also be purchased from both the Eyam Church and the Eyam Museum, at a cost of around £2.50. The most recent edition of the work features a new colour cover and includes several full-colour photographs.  

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23 June 2005