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



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.