Journal of Official Statistics, Vol.14, No.2, 1998. pp. 207234

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London Plague Statistics in 1665

Weekly Bills of Mortality for the City of London were published from the beginning of the seventeenth century. The impetus for the collection and publication of these data came from periodic outbreaks of the bubonic plague in the city. John Graunt, the father of statistical science, based his work Natural and Political Observations upon the Bills of Mortality on the published statistics. For the plague of 1593 in London, it is shown here that all published data, except for perhaps some yearly totals, have been constructed. Examination of the constructed data provides some insight into statistical thinking in the seventeenth century. Some aspects of the accuracy of the Bills of Mortality are also discussed as well as the statistical insights into the Bills of Mortality by some of Graunt's contemporaries.

Data collection; history of statistics; reporting errors; scientific fraud; undercounting errors.

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