‘On this day’ more or less

When I post, and tweet, about a specific violent death I’ll often use the phrase on this day (or #onthisday in tweet-speak) to provide a fixed point in time for the reader. The truth is however that locating an accurate date of death is often quite difficult for the early modern period. Where I rely on Bills of Mortality references I almost always make use of the date the specific weekly Bill was published – so the actual date of death is likely to have been sometime during the week (or fortnight) before publication. Similarly parish burial registers provide just that – a date of burial not death (although William Petty suggested unsuccessfully to parliament that this should be otherwise). So in this case a death date sometime the preceding week is most likely.  Other types of sources can provide more specific dates, such as newspapers, the Old Bailey Session Papers or coroners’ inquests – that is if a date is specified and where they survive. If I have an accurate date I’ll certainly give it but if not then you need to allow me a few days grace either side.

One Response to “‘On this day’ more or less”

  1. Why the gap in the archives between May 2012 and January 2014? These are fascinating and I would like to read more. Stay off ladders and drink more beer seems to be the moral of your research.

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