The Good, the Bad, and the Ague: Defining Healthful Airs in Early Modern England


  • Tayler Meredith University of Birmingham, UK


During the early modern period, malaria—or “ague” as it was colloquially known—was second only to bubonic plague as the most deadly disease in England. Charles II, Oliver Cromwell, Samuel Pepys, and John Donne were among the famous names that suffered from the ague, along with countless, anonymous inhabitants of England's mortality “black-spots”; those southeastern marshlands besieged with malaria throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Beyond estimated mortality rates, this short article will examine the influence of the English mosquito on the domestic lives of individuals and their definition of “good” and “bad” airs.

Author Biography

Tayler Meredith, University of Birmingham, UK

Tayler Meredith is a doctoral researcher based at the University of Birmingham. His current research, which is funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council, is based on the English experience, understanding and management of the so-called ‘Little Ice Age.’