Remember the plague?
Well, the village of Eyam certainly does.
Eyam is a small village in central England with a population of around 1,000. It is best known for one of the boldest and most suicidal efforts to stop the Plague in British history. In 1665, a tailor in Eyam received a package of cloth from London that was full of Plague-infested fleas. Within a week, he was dead and the disease was spreading throughout the village. When residents began to consider fleeing to neighboring towns, the local rectors stepped in and asked everyone to voluntarily brave the horrific tempest of the plague and close themselves off from the outside world.
|How I would've reacted.|
The town agreed. A system was established where merchants and couriers would drop supplies off at The Coolstone outside of town. Money for the shipment would be left there soaked in vinegar, which was believed to prevent infection. It may have actually been true - the acetic acid in vinegar does function as an antibacterial agent.
|I'm sorry if the smell of my PLAGUE-PROOF FRIES bothers you.|
Aside from that indirect exchange, Eyam ceased all contact with the outside world. The plague tore the village apart for fourteen months. Deaths were constant and well-documented. Families were asked to bury their own dead for fear of quickening the spread of the plague, and in one case that caused a woman to bury her husband and all six of her children over the span of eight days. Incredibly, she survived the pestilence, never even becoming ill.
After fourteen months, it became clear that the plague had run its course in Eyam, and the village opened its borders once again. When the plague hit, the population of Eyam was 350. When the quarantine ended, there were only 83 people left. Almost 80% of the people of Eyam died within about a year. There are debates over whether the decision even did any good to stem the tide of the plague, but I think we should just let them have that one. Give them an A for effort, if nothing else.
|Good hustle, you guys. I'm proud of you.|
It's not every day that 350 people will accept horrific disease and almost certain death because it might help a bunch of people they probably don't even know. But that's exactly what happened in Eyam.