Views & Reviews Medical classics

A Journal of the Plague Year

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 04 October 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:725
  1. Christopher Martyn, associate editor, BMJ
  1. cmartyn{at}

A Journal of the Plague Year is a work of fiction masquerading as a work of fact. It reads as if it were an unembellished account of the personal experiences of someone who survived the epidemic of bubonic plague that struck London in the summer of 1665. But, although its author, Daniel Defoe, probably did do exactly that, he can only have been about 5 years old at the time of the epidemic and his childish recollections would surely have been too distant and too unreliable to allow him to write about it more than 50 years later. No, like any modern novelist, he must …

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