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“The poorer sorte haue no place too flee”: Inside the class wars of the plague

During 16th and 17th-century plague outbreaks, mass relocation on part of the rich provoked such controversy that fleeing one’s place of residence earned itself a popular term: flight

By Maya Gordon  

Fleeing the city during epidemics is no new phenomenon, nor is incredulity towards the exodus of city people to the countryside. Photo: Wellcome Collection

Dominic Cummings’s escape to the country during lockdown was a particularly deplorable move, but his case is not an isolated one. From the epicentres of the UK’s coronavirus crisis, hundreds fled the contagion of the city for the calm of the country. North Devon MP Selaine Saxby relayed reports of urban getaways sneaking into Devon “under the cover of darkness.” Even the (now former) Scottish chief medical officer couldn’t resist two minibreaks to Fife, an hour outside of her Edinburgh residence, despite plastering TV screens advising people to stay home.

Fleeing the city during epidemics is no new…

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