Intended for healthcare professionals

Analysis Christmas 2009: Years Like This

Journal of another plague year

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 11 December 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b5033
  1. Mark Petticrew, chair in public health evaluation1,
  2. David Morrison, director2
  1. 1London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT
  2. 2West of Scotland Cancer Surveillance Unit, Section of Public Health and Health Policy, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8RZ
  1. Correspondence to: M Petticrew mark.petticrew{at}

    Mark Petticrew and David Morrison uncover Daniel Defoe’s account of the “remarkable occurrences during the great economic, health, and climactic visitations of 2009” and his difficulties in getting his ideas published

    Recent years have seen a catalogue of plagues and sundry other contagions. Hard on the scaly heels of avian flu follows global warming, swine flu, obesity, and now the economic plague. This litany of woes has affect’d me deeply, as these few entries from my diary this past year shew.

    5th April

    Rose early to enjoy reading the latest bill of mortality of estate agents in the Parish of St Giles, which show’d again a monthly increase. The Bankers, too, have this past year been struck low, and it transpires that their understanding of the term “Bank” has left much to be desired; they have been sinking our shillings in miscellaneous crackpot schemes in the Colonies that few understand, and fewer profit from: to wit, hedge funds, subprime mortgages, Ponzi schemes, plans to build golden stairways to the moon, and God knows how many other feeble minded schemes.

    Fearful of my own savings, I visited my bank in the Strand this morning, only to find to my dismay the building lock’d up with a large “X” marked roughly upon the door. I rapped loudly, and Mr Madoff put his head out the window. When I demanded to withdraw my savings he tossed me a florin, saying insolently, “This is what is left, Defoe, use it wisely. Remember, past performance is no guarantee of future results—as I told you when you invested, the value of your savings can plummet, as well as fall briskly,” and with that he slamm’d the window with a hollow laugh. On close examination I discovered the coin to be but a poor fake, bearing the head not …

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