Medieval Britain 1250-1500: People's Health

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Medieval Britain 1250-1500: People's Health by Mind Map: Medieval Britain 1250-1500: People's Health

1. The characteristic features of medieval Britain: an overview

1.1. Religion

1.1.1. Most people in the British Isles were Roman Catholic and believed in this religion and its values

1.1.2. The Church provided for the religious aspects of peoples' lives, for example baptisms of babies were held and marriages took place. The church did more than this, they also: looked after the old and sick, provided somewhere for travellers to stay, they gave to the poor and sometimes looked after peoples' money. The church played a massive role in government. Bishops sat in the House of Lords and could also raise an army for the king in times of war.

1.1.3. Many people believed if they went on pilgrimage, their time in purgatory (a place where Catholics believed their souls went to be purified of their sins before going to Heaven) would be shorter

1.1.4. Those who were not Roman Catholic were persecuted Jewish people were often attacked and were banned from England in 1290 Poor people who believed in pagan superstitions and were caught, were burned alive as a witch or sorcerer

1.1.5. Monks took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience Monasteries had good toilet facilities and were much cleaner ad healthier than medieval towns and villages

1.2. Class system

1.2.1. During the medieval period, people were divided into classes which determined their importance in society. Royalty- King, Queen, Princes, Princesses The king was the highest authority during those times and was responsible for making laws and takes care of the people of the land The queen or the queens did not take part in the governing of the kingdom but were second in command and held a status of respect. They took major decisions when the king was unwell, hurt or incapable. Queens also served as hostesses for guests. The princes were next in line for the throne after their father died and held high status in the medieval social structure. Princesses were not usually next in line for the throne unless there was no male heir who could take the place on the throne that was being left. Princesses were oftentimes married off to princes in other countries in order to secure long lasting friendly economic and political ties with those countries. Sometimes this was successful, but more often than not it backfired. The Nobility Non-hereditary Nobility- Knights, Peasants, Clergy, Popes, Bishops, Priests, Monks Hereditary Nobility- Dukes, Barons - Barons were responsible first to the king and second to the people who lived on his manor. The baron could earn a higher title,more land or prosperous marriages for his children/ other family members by complying with the kings requirements. However, if the Baron did not comply, he could lose his manor, luxurious lifestyle or maybe even his life. A baron also sometimes served as judges in a court of crime or passed out sentences in court. Dukes’ main responsibility was to be the ruler of a province, they were also the direct superior of a Count. The duke was the highest ranking in the nobility

1.3. Food and famine

1.3.1. It rained almost constantly throughout the summer and autumn of 1314 and then through most of 1315 and 1316. Crops rotted in the ground, harvests failed and livestock drowned or starved. Food stocks depleted and the price of food soared. The result was the Great Famine, which over the next few years is thought to have claimed over 5% of the British population. It was the same or even worse in mainland Europe.

2. Public heath

2.1. Medieval towns were unhealthy places. Public health was not high on the agenda of most town councils. Towns did not have sewage systems or supplies of fresh water, and probably smelled quite awful as garbage and human waste were thrown into the streets.

2.2. By the later Middle Ages there was a growing awareness of the importance of hygiene, and municipal authorities were spending money on trying to keep their cities clean.

2.3. Towns began to build provided public latrines (toilets). By the 15th century, London had over a dozen. They were often placed on bridges, so that the waste could be taken away by the river

2.4. London produced about 50 tons of excrement per day, so muck-rakers were hired to clean the streets. They were paid much better than the average working man. There were also gong farmers who cleared out cesspits and latrines.

2.5. Towns had bath houses, eg Southwark, in London, had 18 hot baths. Even smaller towns would have bathhouses, often connected to bakeries – the baths used the heat coming from their ovens to heat their water

3. Living conditions: housing, food, clean water and waste

3.1. Water

3.1.1. Water was mostly clean, and readily available. In fact, medieval settlements, like those in antiquity, were usually built close to sources of clean, fresh water, such as rivers or lakes.

3.1.2. there was beer and people drank plenty of it, but it was not to replace their water supply

3.1.3. in many cases water was boiled and mixed with other ingredients to form teas or other hot beverages. These flavours might range from herbs and flowers (like chamomile flowers, Linden or mint), to honey, or even to meat stock produced from boiling meat off-cuts and bones. These hot beverages were drank not only for their enjoyable flavour, but often were considered to have mystical, therapeutic or medical benefits.

3.2. Housing

3.2.1. Most people lived in crowded one or two room homes, everyone usually slept in the same room which was dark and smokey from the fire as there is no chimney and only a small window

3.2.2. In the later medieval period the houses of the rich were made out of brick. However, brick was very expensive so many chose to make the half-timbered houses that are now commonly referred to as Tudor houses. Tiles were used on the roofs and some had chimneys and glass in the windows. These houses had two or more floors and the servants slept upstairs.

3.2.3. Houses were made of wattle and daub and overhung the streets, cutting out light and air. Rats, lice and fleas flourished in the rushes strewn over the clay floors of people's houses. It is hardly surprising that disease thrived in medieval towns.

3.3. Waste

3.3.1. Peasant houses and town houses had privies out back. This became a problem in the post-medieval period, when all the empty spaces between houses of a medieval city were filled in. Then houses had cesspits in the basement, that had to be cleaned out periodically. Medieval castles had "inside toilets," you might say, privies set in the outer walls, sometimes opening on air, but usually with drains to carry things away. It was sometimes possible to capture a castle by crawling up through the drains.

3.4. Food

3.4.1. Peasants during the middle ages did not have a lot of variety in their food. They mostly ate bread and stew. The stew would have beans, dried peas, cabbage, and other vegetables sometimes flavored with a bit of meat or bones. Other foods like meat, cheese, and eggs were usually saved for special occasions. Since they didn't have a way to keep their meat cold, they would eat it fresh. Leftover meat was smoked or salted to preserve it. The nobles ate a wider variety of food including meats and sweet puddings.

4. Responses to the Black Death: beliefs and actions

4.1. Causes of the Black Death:

4.1.1. Poor medical knowledge - medieval doctors didn’t understand disease and had limited ability to prevent or cure it, therefore doctors were powerless and couldn’t stop the plague

4.1.2. Poor public health - medieval towns had no system of drains, sewers or rubbish collections, rats lived and germs grew in the dirty conditions

4.1.3. Bad harvests - after 1300 there was climate change and harvests failed. Also during the Hundred Years’ War, spillers roamed around destroying houses and crops, so it is possible that when the plague hit, people were not as healthy and strong as they could’ve been

4.1.4. Global trade - many historians believe the plague originated in China and followed the roots were goods were bought by Italian merchants for sale all over Europe

4.1.5. Rats - most historians believe that the plague was caused by strains of the bubonic plague, it lived in fleas which lived on black rats, they gave disease to the rats and when they died, the fleas hopped off onto humans

4.2. Medieval doctors weren’t sure of what caused the plague but believe it could be a result of:

4.2.1. The movement of the planets

4.2.2. A punishment from God

4.2.3. Bad smells and corrupt air

4.2.4. Enemies who had poisoned the wells

4.2.5. Staring at a victim

4.2.6. Wearing pointed shoes

4.2.7. Strangers in villages

4.3. An estimated 30-60% of Europe died from the plague - this is the ‘mortality rate’. There were different types of the disease with different mortality rates.

4.3.1. Bubonic plague - victims had a 50% chance of death

4.3.2. Pneumonic plague - this attacked the lungs, victims died quickly within 1 or 2 days, the mortality rate was 90%

4.3.3. Septicaemia plague - this affected the blood, victims did quickly and the mortality rate was 100%

4.4. How the plague spread:

4.4.1. The plague seems to have started in China in the 1330s

4.4.2. 1347 - armies attacked the town of Caffa in the Crimea, catapulted dead bodies into the town. Italian merchants took the plague with them to Sicily in October

4.4.3. June 1348 - Black Death arrived at Melcombe Regis (Dorset). By the end of the year it had spread through South England

4.4.4. 1349 - plague spread into Wales, Ireland and North England

4.4.5. 1350 - plague spread through Scotland as they thought God was punishing the English and invaded the north of England, their army caught the plague too. The first plague died out in 1350

4.4.6. Between 1361 and 1364 - the plague returned and five more times before 1405. These plagued mainly killed children who had no resistance to the disease

4.5. Cures for the Black Death:

4.5.1. Rubbing onions, herbs or a chopped up snake on the boils or cutting open a pigeon and rubbing it over an infected body

4.5.2. Drinking vinegar, eating crushed minerals, arsenic, mercury or even ten year old treacle

4.5.3. Sitting close to a fire or in a sewer to drive out the fever, or fumigating the house with herbs to purify the air

4.5.4. People who believe God was punishing them for their sins went on processions whipping themselves to show God he could stop punishing them as they were punishing themselves by whipping themselves

4.5.5. 1361 - 1364 outbreak - doctors learned how to help the patient recover by busting the buboes

4.5.6. Doctors often tested urine for colour and health, some even tasted it to test

4.6. Consequences of the Black Death

4.6.1. Estimates differs but most historians believe that the plague killed half the population of Europe. The death rate was especially bad in monasteries, where the monks stayed together and cared for each other. Some histories suggest the wealthier classes were less affected due to their wealth which enable them to flee from outbreaks

4.6.2. Effects Social - poor people bang to hate their poverty - some historians think this helped to destroy the feudal system Economic - there was a shortage of workers, when parliament passed laws to stop the ages rising, poor people became very angry, some historians believe this helped to cause the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 Physiological - influenced hoe people thought about life, some lived wild, immoral lives and others fell deep into despair, some chose chose to just accept fate. Many people were angry and blamed the church, some historians think this helped the growth of the new Lollard religion in the 15th century. It could also be argued had brought down rich and poor alike, having faced and survive the plague, people at the bottom of society were more prepared to question their position in society

5. Approaches to public health in late-medieval towns and monasteries