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.

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