• The Journal of the Plague Year

  • London, 1665
  • By: Daniel Defoe
  • Narrated by: Nelson Runger
  • Length: 9 hrs and 17 mins
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (281 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

London's Great Plague of 1665 devastated the city, as Europe's final bubonic outbreak killed thousands of helpless citizens. Daniel Defoe, author of the classic Robinson Crusoe, was five years old when the Plague swept through London, and grew up hearing many stories - some truthful, others exaggerated - of its deadly effects. Blending those anecdotes with his childhood recollections and factual data from government registers, Defoe wrote this comprehensive account of what happened to London in 1665. Both a harrowing historical novel and a reliable journalistic record, Defoe recreates a living, suffering city trying to cope with an incurable, rapidly spreading disease.

©1988 Daniel Defoe (P)1988 Recorded Books
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"...the work stands as the most reliable and comprehensive account of the Great Plague that we possess." (Anthony Burgess)

What listeners say about The Journal of the Plague Year

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Tedious

I ordered this book because I've enjoyed other Defoe stories (Moll Flanders and Robinson Crusoe) and am fascinated by epidemics, but I found this story tedious. It is filled with accounts of how many people died in which parish during what week and other such details. I stuck with it for more than two hours without encountering anything that made me wish to continue.

26 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

History That Is Important Today

Although fiction, Defoe investigated the facts of the 1665 London plague and wrote this story as if from a first person perspective. As part of my research on SARS, I found this story to be very interesting. Many details are covered, from macro economic impacts to the very detailed descriptions of individuals trying to cope with the epidemic. What I got out of this book was how universal human response is to an epidemic. The very issues Defoe struggles with, such as "locking up house" were just as controversial during the SARS outbreak in Taiwan (now called quarantine).

I think Runger does a good reading job, matching his style to the content. If you like university lectures and very detailed historical information, then this book is for you. If not, you may have a hard time to stay awake.

21 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

An eye-opening education

My wife was glued to this book, amazed by the facts. It is not a book one listens to for fun or entertainment. It is not a novel it reads more like a journal, a first hand account. It is story after story of a terrifying disease and how it not only destroys the body but the soul as well. One must have a deep interest in the plague or any plague to fully appreciate and understand the affect such a fearful ordeal will have on humanity. If this is the reason one listens to this book, then it is truly and eye-opening account and worth every minute.

Thank you Audible for including it in your book list!

19 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Many penetrating insights by Defoe make for fascinating listening.

I gained a much better understanding of the conditions that people of London endured during the mid 1660's. Defoe describes what was done by authorities (whether helpful or not) to contain the disease, its spread to other neighborhoods and towns, the effects on the different classes and efforts to help those in need, as well as actions (both legal and otherwise) of residents to escape both the disease and the resulting loss of freedom if you and yours were suspected of being so afflicted. Defoe's study, it is said, was the first historical novel, and was derived at least in part from a journal kept by an adult who lived through the Great Plague. Defoe himself was a small boy during the terrible year, but the terror of that year was so great that it remained in survivors for the rest of their lives. Defoe acts as an enlightened scientist would, in his vigorous effort to understand and convey ways to prevent or at least contain another plague, should one come --Fortunately, this great plague was the last scourge of its kind. Still, it brought to mind the fact that new and deadly strains of influenza could bring comparable suffering internationally in modern times--And indeed, already has, especially after World War I.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Not compelling

I couldn't get through it. Thought it would be fun during pandemic but I wasn't interested.

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Written when?!

Good lord this could have been written today! Very interesting, no it’s not a novel or “story” but much can be learned. Chapter 10 could be applied exactly today. Ppl’s attitude on how you get it, they are fine, how there needs to be contact tracing,etc. Even the “God’s wrath” belief is the same! We seem to have learned nothing, it was all laid out here.

2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Times change. People, not so much

This was, quite frankly, not a very exciting story. What I enjoyed most about it was the opportunity to hear about the social dynamics of the Victorian-era plague and compare and contrast to how the modern world is handling COVID-19. It's great to see all the parallels between the different approaches taken by various people and agencies back then and now.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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2020 Vibes

Listening to this during the pandemic is eerie. Turns out, people don’t change.
A good listen, but the audio itself is a little dated, and you can definitely tell.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

interesting parallels to covid

I really enjoyed this book and narrator. It was definitely worth a listen. Interesting parallels.

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    4 out of 5 stars

A Story of Another Health Crisis

Watching my country and my fellow citizens stumble around embarrassingly with Covid-19, I wanted to see how another nation and its citizenry handled a different epic health crisis. I though of Defoe's book which I had never read. To say that Defoe's Londoners of 1665, with their limited medical and health care options but their equally committed, adult behavior, make the US and its citizens of 2021-2 look pathetic. Let's hope that we have an historian as direct and clear-minded as Defoe was for his people when the history of our bad behavior comes to be written in years to come so that future epidemic/pandemic sufferers can learn from our mistakes as well as the sensible behavior of the Londoners of 1665.