Understanding flooding in early modern England

John Emrys Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Flooding was a recurrent part of rural life in early modern England. Explanations of the historical understanding of floods have traditionally relied on religious and providential arguments made in popular printed literature. In this paper, popular printed accounts of flooding are brought together with under-exploited archival sources to provide a different description of perceptions of flooding in early modern England. Local manuscript accounts of flood events are found in the marginal notes inserted into local registers of baptisms, marriages and burials. Institutional records of commissions of sewers provide another perspective on floods, as community-staffed bureaucracies recorded and attempted to manage the damage caused by overflowing rivers and raging seas. Brought together, these local narratives provide a new and different view of the experience of flooding. Paying close attention to the ways in which flood events were narrativized, this paper explores the customary, religious, personal and productive narrative frames invoked by contemporaries. By using underappreciated and traditional archival sources in new ways, this paper provides a rereading of early modern attitudes towards geographical phenomena previously derived from print.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37 - 50
JournalJournal of Historical Geography
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


  • Parish registers


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