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A New Case of the Bubonic Plague

Updated: Oct 6


Ring a Ring o’ Roses, A Pocket full of Posies, A- Tishoo! A- Tishoo! We all Fall Down


Health authorities in China have identified a new case of the bubonic plague, the disease that triggered the “Black Death” pandemic back in the mid-1300s in England.


The new case, which was confirmed on July 5, was found in a herdsman living in the northern city of Bayannur.


Unlike England’s disastrous bubonic plague epidemic, the plague is now curable. It can successfully be treated with antibiotics, and according to the Centre for Disease Control treatment has lowered mortality rates to approximately 11 percent.


Now spare a thought for the sufferes of the Black Death in 13th century England. The nursery rhyme Ring a Ring o’ Roses referred to the plague that devastated England from the 14th to the 17th century. Those who could afford it would carry pomanders stuffed with sweet herbs and spices or carry sweet smelling flowers or posies to hide the smell of death.


One of the greatest catastrophes ever to alter England’s history was the bubonic plague which first arrived in England in the 14th century. Once known as the Black Death, the Great Mortality and the Pestilence, the disease was responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths throughout England.


The bubonic plague was not passed directly between humans and was contagious only via the rodent flea, but the flea was numerous in most human habitations. If the bacteria affected the lungs, this became pneumonic plague, (A- Tishoo! A- Tishoo), and the sputum was then contagious human to human.



Once the infected rats started to die in large numbers, the fleas carrying the bacteria inevitably looked for other hosts. People living in proximity and with generally poor standards of hygiene became new hosts.


People of the 17th century believed in numerous theories regarding the origins of the plague. Most believed that it was a punishment sent by God for the sins of the world. People sought forgiveness through prayer and by repenting for their sins. Many felt that it was caused by bad air, which they referred to as miasma.


The bubonic form of the plague was characterised by buboes, which are masses of tender, enlarged lymph nodes, usually in the groin or armpit. They are painful until they drain, usually one to two weeks after the onset of the illness. The infected would have fever with toxic symptoms of headache and vomiting. They may also bleed with petechiae and bruising of the skin and internal, visceral bleeding.


In a small Peak District village called Eyam a Cordon Sanitaire or quarantine was set up. This line went around the outskirts of the village and no resident was allowed to pass. Signs were erected along the line to warn travellers not to enter. The village was supplied with food and essentials from surrounding villages. To pay for these supplies the villagers left money in water troughs that were filled with vinegar.


In the weeks and months that followed, people watched so many of their neighbours die, often whole families.


Paul Rushworth-Brown is the author of three novels:



Skulduggery - The bleak Pennine moors of Yorkshire; a beautiful, harsh place, close to the sky, rugged and rough, no boundaries except the horizon, which in places, went on forever. Green pastures and wayward hills, the colours of ochre, brown and pink in the Spring. Green squares divided the land on one side of the lane, and on the other; sheep with thick wool and dark snouts dotted the hills and dales. The story, set on the Moors of West Yorkshire, follows wee Thomas and his family shortly after losing his father to consumption. Times were tough in 1603 and there were shenanigans and skulduggery committed by locals and outsiders alike. Queen Bess has died, and King James sits on the throne of England and Scotland. Thomas Rushworth is now the man of the house being the older of two boys. He is set to wed Agnes in an arranged marriage, but a true love story develops between them.


"A glorious read of a period well versed and presented with accuracy and authentic telling by an author who is as much engrossed in his prose as the reader he shares with...masterful and thoroughly enjoyable...5 stars." Adrian, Indibook reviewer.


''Skulduggery, a different treat for lovers of historical fiction, an exciting and mysterious romp through the moors of 17th century Yorkshire, more specifically Haworth and Keighley. The story is a well-painted image of how 'copyholders' or peasants would have lived at this time but that is only the backdrop to a suspenseful whodunit with romantic tones. Modern writers usually don't know what it was like to live in the past but Rushworth-Brown has done this with great skill in this accomplished, atmospheric and thoughtful novel."... Jen Summers



Red Winter Journey- Come on this historic journey, which twists, turns and surprises until the very end. If you like history, adventure and intrigue with a dash of spirited love, then you will be engrossed by this tale of a peasant family unexpectedly getting caught up in the ravages of the English Civil War in 1642.


“A dark and dramatic prose of family and war that brings the realism of history to your imagination with little effort…a great read…”


Available for pre-order


"Dream of Courage- Soon to be released!


The much-anticipated story of the Rushworth family and their journey out of poverty. King Charles has been executed and England becomes a Republic under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell. Highwaymen, thief-takers, pirates and wool broggers tell the story in this mysterious and bone-chilling historical thriller.