One summer’s day long ago, a government bureaucrat recorded a resolution to set his affairs in good order, “the season growing so sickly that it is much to be feared how a man can ’scape having a share in it — for which the good Lord God bless me, or be fitted to receive it”.

The bureaucrat was Samuel Pepys, and the year was 1665. Bubonic plague raged, killing thousands a week in a London with a population of only 450,000.

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