Life Expectancy in the Middle Ages - Sarah Woodbury

Life Expectancy in the Middle Ages

What was the typical life expectancy in the Middle Ages?

Life expectancy varied according to diet, climate, location, relative wealth, etc., but the answer is definitive: not as long as we do now. For starters, infants and children died at a horrific rate (some say up to 1/3 of all died before the age of 5) and a significant percentage of women died in association with childbirth: 5% perhaps from the birth itself, often dying with the child, and a further 15% from childbed fever–the infections that followed a poorly managed delivery (by our standards).

Following that, if a person made it out of childhood, they could be expected to live into their middle forties, provided they maintained good health and weren’t killed in war.  Both those, of course, are big ‘ifs’.

Below is the recorded birth and death date for the adult royal family of Wales and associated Marcher relations, beginning with Joanna (the daughter of King John of England) and Llywelyn Fawr (Llywelyn the Great, the Prince of Wales).  Eliminating individuals who died before adulthood completely, from the dates recorded below, the mean life expectancy for women was 43.6 years, with a median of 42/43; for men, it was a mean of 48.7 and a median of 48/49.

Please be aware that these people are of the highest class of society at the time, granting them (possibly) an easier life and longer life spans.  I have indicated in parentheses the cause of death when it wasn’t old age or disease.

Joanna:  1190-1237 (daughter of King John of England; wife of Llywelyn Fawr) (47)
Llywelyn Fawr:  1173-1240  (Prince of Wales) (67)
Tangwystl:  1168-1206 (mistress of Llywelyn Fawr) (38)
Gwladys:  1206-1251 (princess of Wales) (45)
Ralph Mortimer 1198-1246 (husband of Gladwys) (48)
Gruffydd:  1196-1244 (Prince of Wales) (fell from a rope while escaping the Tower of London) (48)
Roger Mortimer:  1231-1282 (51)
Maud de Braose:  1224-1300 (76)
William de Braose:  1198-1230 (hung by Llywelyn Fawr for sleeping with his wife, Joanna) (32)
Eve Marshall:  1203-1246 (43)
Dafydd ap Llywelyn:  1208-1246 (Prince of Wales) (42)
Isabella de Braose:  1222-1248  (wife of Dafydd) (26)
Eleanor de Braose:  1226-1251 (25)  (childbirth)
Humphrey de Bohun:  1225-1265 (40)  (war)
Edmund Mortimer:  1251-1304 (53)
Margaret de Fiennes:  1269-1333 (64)
Humphrey de Bohun:  1249-1298 (49)
Maud de Fiennes:  1254-1296 (42)
Llywelyn ap Gruffydd:  1228-1282 (54) (war)
Elinor de Montfort:  1252-1282 (30)  (childbirth)

Archaeological evidence indicates that Anglo-Saxons back in the Early Middle Ages (400 to 1000 A.D.) lived short lives. Field workers unearthed 65 burials (400 to 1000 A.D.) from Anglo-Saxon cemeteries in England and found none who lived past 45. This site and this site has similar statistics.

Kings did better. The mean life expectancy of kings of Scotland and England, reigning from 1000 A.D. to 1600 A.D. were 51 and 48 years, respectively. Their monks did not fare as well. In the Carmelite Abbey, only five percent survived past 45. This site says wealthier people would have a life expectancy of more than forty years.

Several sources on the internet have argued that if a person could get through childhood and early adulthood, he could expect to live into the 60’s or even 70’s. This is not substantiated by the data. (For multiple charts and a discussion, see:
It isn’t that medieval people somehow were biologically different, but the structure of their lives, their resources, and their healthcare were dramatically different, ensuring that far fewer people lived as long as the average person does now.

To see the life expectancy of the family of King Edward I:

To see the family tree of the Royal House of Wales see:


84 Replies to “Life Expectancy in the Middle Ages”

    1. Yes, definitely! As well as the fact that children were often responsible for work at very early ages. Once they were mature physically, there were no barriers to marriage.

  1. A very useful study and particularly helpful when trying to establish a link between average life expectancy and GDP per capita. Thank you and well done Sarah Woodbury.
    Chris Kirkpatrick

  2. What exactly were you trying to prove here?

    The individual examples you used had 6 who were 40 or younger. Of those 4 died from childbirth or war.

    “Several sources on the internet argue that if a person could get through childhood and early adulthood, he could expect to live into the 60’s or even 70’s. That claim is not substantiated by the data I’ve found. ”

    Then show that data. First of all, most people don’t say “if a person could get through childhood and early adulthood, he could expect to live into his 60s”. The claim is that if you made it to adulthood, you stood a good chance of making it into your 50s with a reasonable chance of making it into your 60s.

    “It also seems like a specious argument to say that a person could live to be 64 IF he didn’t go to war, she didn’t have a baby, and nobody got sick.”

    Then you’re not understanding the point. The point is that there wasn’t some major difference in human biology. People hear “life expectancy was 35”, and they think “whoa, so you were like an old man if you were 30?”, as if a 30-year-old in the Middle Ages would be in the same physical condition as a 70-year-old now.

    The whole point of pointing out that that low average life expectancy is mainly due to a few key factors is to say that human biology worked the same. A 30-year-old person in the year 1100 was in roughly similar physical condition to a 30-year-old now. The main difference was that people died younger due to those few factors, like childhood illness, war and childbirth.

    So, yes, if you give them less war and the benefit of modern medicine, life expectancy wouldn’t be much different from modern times. MEANING those few factors, rather than some earlier biology, were the main cause of that low life expectancy. That’s an important distinction, considering how many people still think “Oh man, you were an old man at 30 back then!”.

    1. Yes, you are right that it is important to point out that human biology was the same, and I should have included that in the post. I have modified it accordingly. Thank you.

    2. Most people died back then from infection and illness we had no medications that could stop an infection , our medicine was extremely primitive at best , so a minor infection now would be life threatening then and that could be a lot of different disorders , high blood pressure , irregular heart beat , lots of common ailments . We had no understanding of the human body or disease . That was the main culprit ignorance !!!!!! Look up George Washington’s death !!! It was just not war or or childbirth , very bad health care and not understanding disease or how to treat or prevent it !!!

        1. Medieval hygiene and sanitation was much better than is popularly believed. Same with medicine, even. Ancient folk medicine existed. herbal remedies, etc. and they weren’t necessarily as crude or ineffective as modernist try to claim.

          Most of what most people think they know about the middle ages is Renaissance propaganda. The thinkers of the Renaissance literally smeared the Middle Ages in order to make themselves look more advanced and revolutionary.

      1. Look at President Garfield’s death in 1881of infection from a bullet. actually from dirty hands and instruments probing the wound. this is 1881, wow

        1. For the most part, until the discovery of sulfa drugs in 1932, and then antibiotics in the 1940s, life expectancy wasn’t all that much greater than it had been 1000 years earlier.

    1. Mode?
      The whole point for me of looking at life expectancy in the past and up to the mid-20th century is because people forget so easily DESPITE the fact that the great thing about our species is that we can read, write, and pass on vital information and learning from generation to generation!
      If you look at the past, you realize that most of us would not be alive today if it were not for 20th century medical advances, and there is an infinitesimal chance that any one of us was ever born, in part because there was an infinitesimal chance that any ONE of our ancestors was ever conceived, born alive, survived infancy, and lived to procreate with the pure chance OTHER ancestor who was the product of the same improbabilities.

      1. Addendum to my comment above:

        And with all that LONG past history of brief lifespans and death, so many people take survival so much for granted now that they distrust and reject vaccination, public health information, and the rest of a science about which they have clearly not bothered to learn anything useful! If any one characteristic sums up what will ultimately bring an end to Homo sapiens sapiens, it’s lack of sufficient intelligence to absorb our history and the knowledge that we ourselves developed thoroughly enough to survive for long.

      2. I’m very late to this conversation. I believe Jim Byrd’s reference to mode was to the three statistical measures of central tendency — mean, median and mode. Most of us only look at the mean (the “average”) of a data set. Looking also at median and mode can clarify whether the mean is a reliable measure for analyzing a set of data. Of course, the completeness of the data is, as others have said, critical or these other measures are not very helpful.

      3. At ages 5 to 6, I had whooping cough, diphtheria, measles, mumps. My younger brother and sister also lived through them. My cousin had polio at 5 at about 1948 and survived it although with difficulty. Fortunately for nieces and nephews and my own children by the time they were born, vaccines were available and smart parents took advantage of them. They didn’t argue with the laws, rules, and regulations put in effect to prevent unnecessary deaths as their now grandchildren who are parents seem to do.

  3. It’s so interesting to read this information. I worked on a contract in Ireland micro-fisching their records of births marriages and deaths. Unfortunately, complete records only began around the mid 19th century.
    I was struck by the records for Dublin, and noticed that nobody lived beyond the age of 60 years-a very ,
    few made it to 60, as if it was some sort of target to reach.
    It was striking that deaths followed a regular progression ,from birth onwards. One factor, though rare, was “mania”. We know of malnourishment, childbirth deaths (mother and baby) and TB but Smallpox was still evident.19th century Dublin , sadly, gave an insight to the sort of conditions that held from their past.
    However, over-crowding and miserable housing conditions were a factor in deaths.
    I mention this, as we can distance ourselves from the events of the Middle Ages, but ,somehow the same conditions depicted in 19th century Ireland brought home the reality of low life expectancy.
    One factor not mentioned in the above submissions is the prevalent use of salt, for curing meat and fish, with all its harmful effects.
    In addition, the practice of fasting may have had injurious effects (although recently, considering our modern diets, its benefits (keytones) are also more appreciated. Also the variety of food would have been limited.
    Ignorance of the benefits of dietary variation would also mean , even in surplus, malnourishment could occur.
    I am a little skeptical of wars being seen as a major cause of death in the Middle Ages. I think this may be exaggerated. For example, even during the Wars of the Roses, I read the majority of peasants were unaffected. In any case ,there were moral restrictions on warfare, such as the Truce of God, which banned fighting on certain days of the week ,and was effective through the Middle Ages. We could regard the 20th century as the bloodiest of eras, yet the numbers actually killed were horrific and nasty, but not as statistically significant as usually implied. The so called “Spanish flu” following the First World War killed far more.
    The comment that only 1 in 4 sailors survived a voyage must surely be untrue. Wo, in their right minds would bother? That is , unless they were slaves rowing!

    1. I agree about the wars, given the relatively small numbers involved. Civil wars, however, resulted in crops not being sown, and thus famine, which probably contributed to a lower life expectancy. And clearly, the more Feudal initially, and then more urban, Europe became, the less healthy its people.

      Thanks so much for commenting!

      1. Its simple….primarily “it was the food and emergency medicine”<~~~end of story, tho the FDA is now a joke "in some regards" (big pharma, over reach of toxic mRNA vaccines).
        FDA agencies from early onset (last 100 years) helped significantly……keeping toxic oral intake, foods/drug at bay!

    2. You have obviously never been out to sea , I have and it would have been extremely treacherous for sailors in a small wooden boat under 200 feet long , I have been across the Pacific twice on a boat it is very dangerous .. They would starve to death die of scurvy ,fall over the side get killed in storms and they are very scary ..

    3. Ireland in the 19th century… I think that says it all.

      I don’t think it’s fair to compare a colonised and oppressed people who suffered from an externally imposed famine with prosperous landowners in the middle ages — who often lived into their 60s and beyond.

  4. All these records are from Europe, which evidentially, was arguably the most backward, superstitious, and unclean part of the world. Try looking at records from the middle east, or the orient, and then tell me life spans are longer now!

  5. New archeological studies suggest that 60’s was average age of death. If wales was so inbred it may have differed but most of European peadantry died in their 60s.

    1. It would be great if you could link to those articles. I presented data from the lives of actual people, and it would be great to have the data that shows peasants died in their 60s. Thanks.

      1. This is an old statement but it would be difficult to find such data as much of peasant life is undocumented due to super low rates of literacy and the fact that no one really gave a {} about them. Most of what we know about peasants back then comes from literature from the higher classes and scientific study of the skeletal (and sometimes the rare event of an environmentally mummified cadaver) of the lower class.

  6. Sarah, to your knowledge, has there ever been a study on the life expectancy of nuns of the middle ages? It would be interesting to see how long women lived when their lives were not cut short by childbirth.

    1. I don’t know of a study. A quick Google revealed some intriguing articles, but nothing that said women lived longer as nuns than the typical age of death of 45. But I’ll keep looking!

  7. I can recommend the book: “Old Age from Antiquity to Post-Modernity.” Here we find the names of queens, dukes, monks and archbishops that had a long life. Ex: bishop Gilbert Of Sempringham, whom retired when he was 89 years old, Duke of Norfolk died in battle 75 years old. And Queen Victoria was past 80 when she died. etc.

  8. Thank you for this information!
    I have been searching the web for an estimated birth rate for European nations during the late Middle Ages.
    Any sources you would recommend or information you could spare?

    1. I don’t have information on actual birth rate to hand, and a quick search of the internet isn’t revealing. Sorry. It may just be information we really can’t know.

  9. I have 20 questions to ask you is that ok ?

    1. How old were peasants when they died ?
    2. What did people die of?
    3. How good was their health ?
    4. What jobs did men do in the village ?
    5. What work did women do
    6. Did peasants children go to school?
    7. What was village church like ?
    8. What did the village priest do?
    9. What food did peasants eat ? And drink ?
    10. What clothes did peasants wear?
    11. How were their clothes made ?
    12. What was a villain ? What other sorts of peasants were there ?
    13. What games did village children play?
    14. Did they have holidays ?
    15. What were their houses like ?
    16. What was the inside of a peasants house like ?
    17. How could peasants earn money?
    18. What form of transport did they use ?
    19. What sort of music did they like? Did they have musical instruments?
    20. How were people punished in the village? For what crime ?

    I’m trying to help my son homework and please san you help me? Many thanks


    1. If she died at 45, that is pretty average for all women (for those who survived childhood). I wouldn’t have said that being a philosopher had anything to do with it.

    2. Hypaitia was Stoned to Death, she didn’t die of old age or disease. She also had a life which could be considered equivalent to that of Nobility.

      1. The median death rates include all causes of death, even ones that aren’t ‘natural’ like old age. Most people in the middle ages didn’t die of old age, obviously, so the choices are ‘unnatural’ deaths such as disease, warfare, childbirth, hanging, etc. What’s interesting is our modern assumptions about what are natural causes, and even disease is generally not viewed as such. Old age is the only natural death, while everything else implies people died too young.

        That said, your point is taken about Hypatia.

  10. I have examined my family tree on my father’s surname back 18 generations. They were glass makers and were not nobles, soldiers, or serfs. They had an average of about ten children or so per generation, although there were a fair number of bachelors. What I do know through the study of history that knights lived to be an average of about 38 years old. That was roughly the age of gunslingers in the old West in the US frontier. These occupations are somewhat analogous to professional athletes in today’s world, who had a an occupational time span of approximately 20 years while at peak athletic health. Some lived shorter and some lived longer, but sooner or later you’d end up in a battle that didn’t go your way. A study of centurions during the times of the Roman legions only estimated that 1 out of 100 legionaries collected their pension after 20 years (age 38). Romans lived an average age of 21 during the peak of the Roman empire. My observation of my family history was that 1) there were a lot of children 2) there was a high rate of infant mortality 3) there were women who died in childbirth, although I saw many women who had 13 children without issue while my great grandfather was married three times due to deaths in childbirth by two of his wives. Many ancestors were involved in battle, some dying. However, the vast majority of health benefits showed up in the human race when we started practicing more hygienic practices. Going from an average age of 21 in Rome and only 1 in 100 living to age 38 in the Roman legion to people living longer in pre industrial America had much to do with better living conditions, hygienic practices, and better food. The average life expectancy in the US was 46 in 1900. As antibiotics, reduced infant mortality, vaccines, and advanced medical practices developed people are now living into their 80’s from a life expectancy of 67 in 1935. There are so many variables involved: social status, war time or not, plagues, types of occupations, crop failures and famines, being in the middle of a war zone, versus relatively good times. Scholars and nobles had more exciting lives and better care and resources. However, ambition on the part of relatives can result in the early end of life as well.

  11. That was an interesting article and it put things nicely in perspective.

    Like the author of the article, I don’t entirely agree with the claim ‘if a person could get through childhood and early adulthood, he could expect to live into the 60’s or even 70’s’. The statement is wrong because can’t assume no disease or war can make victims after early adulthood. However, it should be noted that it was possible people could live their 60’s and 70’s and in rare cases maybe even older and I think it’s important people on the internet pointed that out. There are people who don’t realize that and believe people in the middle ages didn’t get older than 30, which is untrue.

    It’s true that the average life-span was somewhere in their 30’s, taking into account deaths at childbirth, diseases, etc, but when I see someone on the internet say ‘people in the middle ages didn’t get older than 30’, that’s when I say ‘if they didn’t get sick they could live up to 70’.
    Of course they had to have a bit of luck to not get any diseases that would end your life before that, but since the ‘they didn’t get older than 30’ statement became a bit of a ‘fact’ on the internet (instead of the average it is with its highs and lows on either side) I think people started going against it by pointing out how old people could get.

    Nowadays men on average live up to 72. Saying men will only live to be 72 is wrong, some do get older and some die before that. That’s what makes it an average.

    1. Yes, you’re right. Certainly people could live to 70 and did! That was partly why I wrote the post too–just because the average life expectancy was 30 doesn’t mean that everyone died then. It also doesn’t mean that a thirty-year-old was old. Though I can see why knowledge of how short life could be could make things like early marriage make a lot of sense, or the idea that you should live each day as if it were your last 🙂

      1. I think (although I’m not really an expert) that the early marriage idea might come from marriages among the highest of the nobility and royalty, where marriages were much more of a matter of policy and had little to do with when husbands and wives got together to have children. Peter Laslett, in “The World We Have Lost,” shows that menarche in the 17th century would have been late, due to poor nutrition, so many women didn’t marry until very late teens (giving the lie to the Romeo and Juliet myth) or even later. Poverty kept ordinary men from marrying until into their late 20s/30s because they had to be able to get through apprenticeships and amass enough money to establish their own households. I’m assuming Laslett’s findings for the 17th century must have been even more pronounced in earlier centuries like the 13th. I could be wrong about any of this, of course. I agree with all the lifespan info you have written about. People really could live lives into their 70s or even later, but of course that means: lucky in not dying as infants/children (up to 1/3 died before age 5, bringing that average ‘way down); lucky (for women) in not dying in childbirth; lucky for everyone in not dying of some horrible disease rampant during the times with no ideas about sanitation/nutrition/microorganisms. That would mean you’d have to be pretty lucky, and also lucky in your profession. Apparently, if you were a sailor, your chances of coming back from a voyage alive were 1 in 4. Has anyone else heard that statistic?

  12. Thank you Sarah Woodbury. You are well informed and not dogmatic. Reporting recent research. You have not here included clues from linguistic theorists. Or I missed. I’m speaking of the Origen of celts. What do you know of that?

  13. Interesting, but in contradiction to what I have found in my own family tree. Granted it’s only 7000 people covering a span of 6 centuries (it’s very incomplete). You’ve given the royals a longer life time. That would seem to contradict medical fact. The royals were highly in-bred and as such should have lower life expectancy. The largest segment in my family lived into their 50s to 80s. I don’t doubt the mean age, or even median age would be in the 40s. Accidents were quite often fatal back then. A lot more deaths from simple infections. Women died in large numbers from childbirth. I have many cases of women who never married or had children. It is not as rare as you might think, and it didn’t require being infertile or a nun. You can’t really count children in the mix though. Not really fair to do that. Yes they died in much greater numbers. Life expectancy barring accidents and war would surely have been much higher than the 40s. I don’t know what types of graves those sites cover. So can’t speak to how representative they are of the general population. But looking at the actual church records, might give some better indications, but that’s a major task.

    1. Even if there were genetic issues for interbreeding, the royalty lived more on average for having a decent nutrition (it wasn’t marvelous, though, but at least they didn’t sleep with the stomach empty), whereas everyone else suffered constant undernourishment, which made you far more susceptible to illness. This specially applies if we ignore infant mortality, since born issues for a poor genetic killed most of them before adulthood, whereas undernourishment affected roughly equally everyone (poor growth during infancy is directly related to a poor health in adulthood).

      Also, you might be misunderstanding something: medicine is not doing ANYTHING to make us age slower or better, what medicine does is to prevent those “accidents” from killing you. Caught smallpox like the 30% of the people during an outbreak? Aww, bad luck! Better luck in the next life! Caught syphilis? It must suck to be you! That injury from a cow that kicked you got infected? Let’s amputate it and if you’re really lucky you will not die immediately! A cholera outbreak? Well, we didn’t know that washing our hands was important at all!

      And the “accidents” part is also largely related to luck, specifically where and when you lived. Northern Europe in the last 4 centuries got a lot of luck with the crops (aside two Ireland’s famines), end of plagues by mere luck, earliest industrialization which greatly reduced hunger, political stability, no social collapse whatsoever, no wars fought in the homeland, very low syphilis levels (for mere isolation from the outbreak zones), great wealth from imperialism (so very few poor people out there for the ages standards), early vaccination against some of the most terrific bastards, and the biggest game-changer: America’s crops were already introduced in large scale to Eurasian, which massively reduced famine, so your numbers are the ones from a very long golden age (and definitively not medieval, neither).

      Medieval Europe wasn’t nothing of that, plague alone whipped out half the population many times (not really discriminating with kids or adults). Also saying that you shouldn’t be a mother to live long is a bit silly considering most girls ended up pregnant soon or later (just like today), or that war, vandalism, crime and other stuff should be ignore because I don’t know, when they were far more common back then and it was a real deal for most the world population.

      But of course, if you were a lucky bastard no accidents for you, no plague, no war, no crime, no social or local collapse, no kids, no cows kicking ya’, no crop failure, no poverty, no dangerous or toxic work, no rats, never traveled and many more ifs, sure, you can easily hit 70s, since even modern medicine wouldn’t do anything too important for you anyway, a divine mantle of luck has fought back anything that might kill you! Of course, the average citizen lacked the same luck until the early-modern times (and even then, it wasn’t until sanitation and modern medicine that we granted good luck to almost everyone).

  14. I appreciate this info for a historical novel that I’m writing. However, upon reading your expressions of sympathy for the mothers and fathers of that period, I could not help thinking that, though we can do nothing to change their situation so many centuries in their futures, we can challenge the same problems today. Check out this on infant mortality rates (the number of infants that die before their first birthday out of every 1000 live births): Then as far as child mortality rates, (the number of children that die before their fifth birthday out of every 1000 live births), study well the graphs on:; note what Latin American third-world country compares best with the U.S. Then check out this short article about why that is: Then there’s and article on what Cuban doctors making a dent in the problem globally: (or any other article in MEDICC). Also, read this:, which includes the sentence (for those who feel like third-world deaths are ok because they’re believed to “decrease the surplus population,”) “reducing child deaths slows down the rate of population growth.”

    1. What? Latin America has almost the triple of infant mortality (18) than the US (7): the unique country which has roughly the same digit is Chile (8), that is the wealthiest country in Latin America (already considered developed by most institutions as of 2016).

      Cuba (with 6) is an exception because it pays its doctors and college professors the minimum to live, and at the same time it restricts their capability to travel outside the country, which ends up in isolating Cuban medics from worldwide competition in salaries. Also Cuba is the third wealthiest country in Latin America, just surpassed by Panama and Chile and is very close to the developed status in all its statistics as well.

      So before calling a country a third world and assuming all the third world is the same you should understand that there is a relevant difference between the realities of Haiti with Guatemala, and from Guatemala with Peru, and from Peru with Cuba or Chile (you can check them yourself in infant mortality!).

      Also the dynamics in which infant mortality happens when the numbers are 10 from 1000 or lower is starkly different. While in earlier numbers the reduction is greatly attributed to vaccination, reduction or end of hunger, assisted birth in a hospital and finally some degree of access to antibiotics, after you have archive all that your numbers are very close or lower 10, and all that remains is access to high-end medical care for complicated cases and specific cases, which while the US has plenty of it, the access is limited for some for the nature of social coverage in the US, and also there is the topic of immigrants’ naturalization playing against: if you exclude kids from immigrants parents the US numbers are far closer to the European Union.

  15. Most people couldn’t read or probably count. They also would avoid conscription and pretend to be younger if they wanted a husband. There were impersonators, pretenders, In conclusion there is no accuracy to midieval data case closed. There are some osteoarcheological data I guess but is this completely verifiable ?

  16. It seems that the notion of an heir to the home or throne, a dowry, wide hips and healthy/chunky sized woman, stress and pressure to have many children all come into play as people were literally trying to maintain the human race. How many times have we, as humans, been put in this position in the story of planet earth?

  17. Thanks for the article.

    Does anyone have a good reference for the causes of infant deaths in the Middle Ages? There are lots of numbers for the mortality rate…but none for the specific causes.


    1. Specific causes were disease and maternal death, analogous to the reasons for infant death in modern preindustrial societies. I googled it 🙂

  18. The real question to me is why we need to be so sure people died so much younger in ye olde darke dayes? Just a cursory reading of history tells us that no, in fact, everyone who survived the turbulence lived into their 70s. The same age as the life-prolonging medical interventions of our day. But why this obsession to prove otherwise? That’s what I find interesting.

    1. It was surviving the turbulence that was at issue! And, of course, the child mortality rate. I suspect that we have some kind of need for our current time to be better than past times.

      1. I’d caution against taking at face value most of Shakespeare’s stuff to be indictative of how life was like during the middle ages. For example, Romeo and Juliet is a satire of romantic love so it was deliberately over the top.

      2. Juliet was 13 (“On Lammas Eve at night shall she be 14”) and Romeo was probably a few years older. Lady Capulet, fun fact, was 25 (she says to Juliet, “I was your mother much upon these years that you are now a maid,” meaning she had her at age 12). The median age at first marriage in England at the time was about 23 for women and 26 for men, and Shakespeare wrote in a poem “…come kiss me, sweet and 20/youth’s a stuff will not endure,” implying that 20 was considered young. They were not middle aged; they seemed just as ridiculously young to Shakespeare’s audiences as they did to us. Furthermore, Shakespeare wasn’t writing in the Middle Ages but rather the Renaissance, so his plays are irrelevant to this article.

        1. The merchant or middle class married later than either nobility or peasants. To a certain extent, delaying marriage longer is a sign of middle or upper-middle class status today.

  19. I am looking for a book about how long different class of people lived in Elizabethan. Peasants, Merchant, Churchmen, Nobles.

    1. That’s a bit after my era, so I don’t have anything to hand. A quick google search shows:
      They put life expectancy at 35 years, which is pretty vague because it doesn’t break it down by gender or what it was if a person survived the first 5 years.
      City dwellers tended to have a lower lifespan than country ones, due to the way disease spread more easily and quickly in the city.

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