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Deluge and disease: plague, the poetry of flooding, and the history of health inequalities in Andrew Marvell’s Hull

Mottram, Stewart


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Dr Stewart Mottram
Director of Research, School of Humanities, and Reader in English


This article redresses a predominant focus on London among historians of health inequalities by turning to the port town of Kingston upon Hull and offering the first demographic analysis of burial records from Hull’s ‘great plague’ of 1637–38. The article shows how the social history of plague intersects with the flood metaphors of Hull poet, Andrew Marvell (1621–78) and his father, the Reverend Andrew Marvell (c.1584–1641). The article offers new understanding of Marvell as an estuary poet immersed in the floods, plagues, and environmental hazards that were a feature of life in Hull and London. It finds that Hull’s poorest householders were over three times more likely to die of plague in 1637–38 than Hull’s merchants, and argues that these are health inequalities reinforced by Marvell’s flood metaphors, which liken to Noah those with the financial means to flee from plague, while unjustly condemning the perceived impieties of the poor.


Mottram, S. (2023). Deluge and disease: plague, the poetry of flooding, and the history of health inequalities in Andrew Marvell’s Hull. Seventeenth Century,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 28, 2022
Online Publication Date Dec 5, 2022
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date Nov 2, 2022
Publicly Available Date Dec 8, 2022
Journal The Seventeenth Century
Print ISSN 0268-117X
Electronic ISSN 2050-4616
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Andrew Marvell (1621-1678); Reverend Andrew Marvell (c.1584-1641); History of health inequalities; Environmental humanities; Flooding in English literature; Plague in English history
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Copyright Statement
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited

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