The Great Caterpillar Outbreak of 1782

In the spring of 1782, it wasn't the American Revolutionary War that had Londoners worried. The city and nearby countryside had been covered in ominous, mysterious webs, filled with untold numbers of caterpillars and their eggs. The city responded with panic, and rumours of plague and pestilence spread like wildfire. It seems far-fetched that an insect like the brown-tail moth could begin a citywide crisis; so why were Londoners so concerned? And how did the caterpillars become scapegoats for the city's recent tensions?


Dan is joined by John Lidwell-Durnin, a lecturer in the History of Science at Exeter University, to delve into the bizarre history of the 1782 caterpillar outbreak.


Produced by James Hickmann and edited by Dougal Patmore.


Discover the past on History Hit with ad-free original podcasts and documentaries released weekly presented by world-renowned historians like Dan Snow, Suzannah Lipscomb, Lucy Worsley, Matt Lewis, Tristan Hughes and more. Get 50% off your first 3 months with code DANSNOW. Download the app or sign up here.


PLEASE VOTE NOW! for Dan Snow's History Hit in the British Podcast Awards Listener's Choice category here. Every vote counts, thank you!


We'd love to hear from you! You can email the podcast at ds.hh@historyhit.com.


You can take part in our listener survey here.