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Study information

Restoration London: Plague, Fire and History

Module titleRestoration London: Plague, Fire and History
Module codeHIH1525
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Professor Jonathan Barry (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Sources relating to the plague and fire of London (1665-6) are used to explore the nature and inter-relationship of varied types of evidence - official, personal, literary, visual, statistical, topographic, ideological - to introduce you to the analysis of original sources and their uses and limitations in the understanding of the past.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The main focus of modules of this type is to introduce you to the analysis of original sources – and their uses and limitations in the understanding of the past. As such it does not seek to present a fully comprehensive history of the plague and fire of London, nor can it cover all the many sources that might be looked at for its study. Instead, the module looks at a representative sample of different types of source relevant to understanding these events and their significance, ranging from official accounts, and published maps and pamphlets, through taxation and mortality data, to diaries, poems and a novel. These sources are representative of the kinds of sources that are commonly available to historians of the early modern period, and introduce you to a range of ways of analysing such sources, both qualitative and quantitative. Knowledge of the secondary literature is required as background as an aid to understanding the sources and their significance. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Understand and assess the main developments in the study of the plague and fire of London (1665-6)
  • 2. Work critically with a range of written and visual sources relating to the topic

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Identify the problems of using historical sources, e.g. utility, limitations, etc, and compare the validity of different types of sources
  • 4. Present work orally, respond to questions orally, and think quickly of questions to ask other students

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Conduct independent study and group work, including the presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning
  • 6. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment
  • 7. Work with others in a team and to interact effectively with the tutor and the wider group
  • 8. Write to a very tight word-length

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • The course will begin with critical discussion of Defoe’s Journal of a Plague Year before a range of other sources are used to test the extent to which his account is reliable.
  • Its fictional diary account is then compared with the genuine diaries of Pepys and Evelyn.
  • Statistical, visual and space sources (contemporary maps, prints and demographic statistics, and modern maps and statistical analyses) are then used to build up an understanding of the social circumstances and impact of plague, including the role of plague in encouraging contemporaries to undertake pioneering analysis of this kind themselves.
  • Proclamations, medical texts and sermons then reveal rival interpretations of meanings of these events, including disputes over who had provoked God's judgment on London, culminating in Dryden's poem, Annus Mirabilis (1666).
  • In conclusion we reconsider Defoe's text and how we now understand it and its status as evidence.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 22 hour lecture: Introduction to the module
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 2010 x 2 hour seminars. At a meeting of the whole class generally a different group of 3-4 students will give a presentation to the whole class, followed by class discussion and working through the sources for that week carefully. Additional sources may be issued in the class and the lecturer will also use the time to set up issues for the following week.
Guided Independent Learning128Students prepare for the session through reading and research; writing a weekly source essay and preparing one group presentation in the course of the term.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation (3-4 students)10 minutes1-7Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Source commentary 133850 words1-3, 5-6, 8Mark and written comments
Source commentary 233850 words1-3, 5-6, 8Mark and written comments
Source commentary 334850 words1-3, 5-6, 8Mark and written comments

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Source commentarySource commentary1-3, 5-6, 8Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • D Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year ed. P Backscheider (Norton, 1992)
    A Beier and R Finlay (eds), London 1500-1700: Making of the Metropolis (Longman, 1985)
    R Porter, London: Social History (Penguin, 1996) chs 4-7
    J Champion, London’s Dreaded Visitation (Historical Geography Research Series, 1995)
    P Slack, The Impact of Plague on Tudor and Stuart England (OUP, 1985)
  • Stephen Porter, The Great Plague (2009) and The Great Fire of London (2009)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

London; plague, fire; historical sources; Restoration

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date