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Evaluating early modern lockdowns: household quarantine in Bristol, 1565–1604

Udale, Charles (2023) Evaluating early modern lockdowns: household quarantine in Bristol, 1565–1604. Economic History Review, 76 (1). 118 - 144. ISSN 0013-0117

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Identification Number: 10.1111/ehr.13176


We know the policy of quarantining plague victims and their families together within their households entailed considerable costs and controversy in early modern Europe. Less clear is the extent to which the authorities implemented the policy in the face of this. This paper presents a novel approach to the measurement of enforcement which relies on linking deceased individuals listed in parish registers into household groups and then measuring changes in within-household mortality between parishes and epidemics. This provides a more complete assessment of the scale of implementation than would be possible using documentary sources alone. Measuring within-household mortality allows us to understand patterns of quarantine enforcement in settlements across early modern Europe. Here the focus is restricted to three epidemics that occurred in Bristol – one of England's most populous and prosperous cities. The analysis reveals household quarantine was enforced in 1603–4 with unprecedented vigour. The effects of quarantine are particularly pronounced in the affluent parishes where elite residence was highest. Greater evidence for enforcement is explained by greater elite oversight and control, as well as their desire to protect their own households. The scale of the impact is shocking. Household quarantine could double within household mortality.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author.
Divisions: Economic History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
H Social Sciences
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
JEL classification: N - Economic History > N3 - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income, and Wealth > N33 - Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Income and Wealth: Europe: Pre-1913
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2022 15:24
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2023 14:48

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