‘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.

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