The Great Plague: Outbreak

The Great Plague: Outbreak


Visiting the 1665 streets of London to examine the outbreak — and subsequent epidemic — of the bubonic plague
feels eerily familiar. Particularly when, during their whistlestop tour of plague hotspots — which also takes in Marseille — Dr Xand van Tulleken, archaeologist Raksha Dave and journalist John Sergeant discover striking parallels with the current coronavirus pandemic.
Bubonic plague burdened its victims with gangrenous noses and lymph nodes swollen to the size of tennis balls — physical ailments showcased by Sergeant, who lies bed-bound as a make-up artist applies imaginary wounds.


Xand van Tulleken, Raksha Dave and John Sergeant trace the spread of the Great Plague of 1665 week by week and discover parallels with the coronavirus. In the first episode, the epidemic is traced back to its source in the parish of St Giles in the Fields, now at the heart of London's theatre district. The programme also examines the symptoms of the disease and uncovers new research into the plague bacteria that could overthrow accepted ideas about how the infection was spread.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Xand van Tulleken
Presenter Raksha Dave
Presenter John Sergeant
Director Sam Bailey
Executive Producer Amanda Lyon
Producer Sam Bailey
Series Producer Jamie Simpson
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Documentary History