Learning Activity: Investigating a Docks Plague Notice


Description of resource:

An official Port of Bristol information notice, which would have been one among many displayed in prominent locations around the docks. It was an effective method of distributing information to all dockworkers.

This notice warns of the dangers of plague also known as bubonic plague or as it was colloquially known the ‘Black Death’. Bubonic plague is spread by plague carrying fleas known as rat fleas that live on rodents such as rats and mice.

Rats were a common sight around the City Docks and are still found there today. They are also found in the holds of ships and are thus easily carried from port to port across the world hence the danger of plague being bought into the UK from other countries.

Outbreaks of bubonic plague are rare today and can be effectively treated.

Support materials:

  • Floating Harbour glossary
  • Dictionary
  • Magnifiers
  • Selection of historical documents
  • Contemporary and Historical Ordnance Survey (OS) maps (Alan Godfrey Maps produce large scale plans of OS maps for towns throughout the UK and Ireland)

Techniques and questions for investigating this document

  • Read the document carefully and examine the information it contains.
  • Does the format or appearance differ from a modern notice or poster?
  • Date the document. Consider what evidence you would use to help you if the date was not on the document. Would the print type offer any clues or the style of language and the content?
  • Highlight words or phrases that are difficult to understand or need defining.
  • List the information it provides and find out more.
  • Discuss where this notice might have been placed and why it was in that location. Why was it important to display this kind of information at the harbour?
  • Consider how important information of a similar nature is broadcast today both at home, at school and in public areas. Find some examples to study.

Interactive map

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