We have talked on the blog about some of the datasets we are transcribing from the Bills of Mortality - the counts of death by parish, causes of death, and christening and burial numbers. Some of the bills have even more information on them: the price of bread (and eventually other foodstuffs). But why would state-mandated bread prices be included in the Bills of Mortality? To find out, we need to look more closely at the role of bread in early modern England.
God’s Terrible Voice in the City by Thomas Vincent describes the disastrous judgments of plague and fire that devastated London in 1665-1666. Today, two different editions of this work appear in the collections of Early English Books Online and Evans Early American Imprint Collection, the former published in London in 1667 and the latter published in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1668. The American publication of a book on a London disaster shows how a religious culture of providentialism- the belief that God cast down supernatural favor and punishment on the world- stretched across the Atlantic in the early modern English world (See Kierner, Inventing Disaster for more).
In late November of 1703, a “great storm” or hurricane struck the British Isles. Bad weather began a few days before the heart of the storm made landfall on November 26th, spawning tornadoes, ripping off roofs and chimneys, and destroying entire fleets. One of the most famous tragedies of the storm happened on the Goodwin Sands, a deadly sandbank off the coast of Kent. At least 53 ships were wrecked on the sandbank and over 2,000 men died just six miles from safety.