Bill of Mortality

Bill of Mortality
Bill of Mortality

1650-1700 / Other / Paper / Publication
Printed on paper

A printed bill of mortality for the year 1665.

Mortality statistics in London were kept on an experimental basis from the 1590s. They were kept weekly and continuously from 1611 by the London Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks. Annual summaries of the bills were issued at the end of every year. The greatest issue for the record keepers was the continuing growth of London, especially from the late 1600s onwards. This began to render the data increasingly inaccurate and ultimately unreliable. The last surviving weekly mortality bill in its traditional format dates to 1847.

This mortality bill for the year 1665 is particularly famous, as it lists the dead of the Great Plague which swept London that year. By 19th December 1665, a total of 68,596 plague deaths had been recorded in all the London parishes. The plague did not subside until the following year, by which time an estimated 100,000 people had perished, around a quarter of all of London's inhabitants.

Note also the other causes of death listed, including "Frighted", or "Grief". Apparently, "Teeth and Worms" took 2,614 lives and the curiously-titled "Rising of the Lights", whatever it was, claimed 397.