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The primary purpose of this essay is to survey early modern biopolitics represented in Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year. By looking back at the plague outbreak that happened a generation earlier, Defoe discusses the rise of the biopolitical state from an eighteenth-century perspective. During the middle ages and well into early modernity, the plague was seen as a sign of wonder and an expression of God’s exceptional intervention. However, Defoe’s narrator H.F. gradually secularizes this view and understands the plague as an issue of the city’s biopolitical control. This shift from a theocentric to a primarily bio￾political view is conterminous with the transformation captured by Michel Foucault’s concept of “governmentality.” In H.F.’s account, starting with the basic control of discourse and progressing to more extreme measures such as the shutting up of houses, everything is subject to the city’s biopolitical controls. H.F.’s understanding of the rise of a biopolitical state is, nonetheless, never clear enough as he maintains a certain ambiguity toward it. Critics have characterized Defoe’s narrator as unreliable, pointing out his self-contradictory perspective. I would argue, however, that H.F.’s antinomic accounts are derived not from his subjective instability or his failed recognition of reality; rather, they occur because he is fully aware of the “enigma” of biopower, which overlaps with the power to kill (thanatopower) when it is extremely developed. H.F.’s lesson is still useful today because it allows us to discuss human rights in the midst of a pandemic outbreak that requires extreme state controls.