Plague in Scotland : Impact
The impact of plague outbreaks on society was devastating. Apart from the high number of victims they claimed, they affected common people such as craftsmen, small merchants or labourers much worse than the well-off. The latter often took the opportunity to leave the crowded towns where contagion was high and escaped to their country estates, where they could wait out the end of an outbreak.
Those who had to remain not only had to cope with the high risks of contagion, but to keep society functioning with a workforce weakened by the disease. Once an outbreak was over, wages for the remaining, much diminished working population rose exponentially, but of course food and other provisions became more expensive with fewer people working the land too.
"Inoculation is much practised by an ingenious physician (Dr Mackenzie, of Wick) in this county, and also the Orkneys, with great success, without any previous preparation. … but in all these places, the small-pox is very fatal in the natural way."