Journal of the Plague Year

Defoe, Daniel

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela
  • Date of entry: Jan-24-2003
  • Last revised: Aug-29-2006


Set in 1665, Journal of the Plague Year is a fictional account of the plague that set upon London that summer. Defoe, one of the first British novelists, walked a thin line between fact and fiction. His book poses as a firsthand account and contains statistical information on the plague, but is primarily fictional.

His novel charts the development of the infection, its spread, and the destruction it left in its wake. He provides gruesome accounts of medical practice in the era, including graphic descriptions of women dying in childbirth and vast burial pits. Doctors tried to stop the spread of the disease by killing 40,000 dogs and 200,000 cats who they assumed carried the disease.


Defoe’s eighteenth-century language seems a bit stilted, but his book is still an effective teaching tool. It might form an interesting historical work for a class on infectious disease and its control. It may add historical perspective to AIDS study.


First published: 1722



Place Published

New York