Bloodletting

Bloodletting is one of the more horrific aspects of doctoring in history to the modern mind, the exact opposite of the prescription, ‘first do no harm’. In Starz production of Pillars of the Earth, set in the 1100s AD in England, an early scene shows a doctor bloodletting a patient.  This surprised me because I thought it too early for that particular method of harming a patient. I was wrong. Bloodletting has been practiced for thousands of years and was common among the ancients.  “‘Bleeding’ a patient to health was Read More…

Leprosy

Leprosy was one of the scourges of the Middle Ages–not so much because of scale, but because when a person caught it, their community cast them out.  The lazar house in the Brother Cadfael books, St. Giles, plays a significant role in the series.  In the movie, Kingdom of Heaven, Baldwin IV of Jerusalem is portrayed as a leper, which is historically accurate.  He ruled from 1174 to 1185.  The man who recognized he had the disease (instead of the Baron played by Liam Neeson) was William of Tyre, later Read More…

Mortality Rates

One of the hard things about imagining oneself in the middle ages, or writing a character who lives then, is figuring out the odds of them living at all.  The median lifespan of an individual living in the US was 78.7 years in 2010, unchanged since 2004. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/deaths.htm I’ve posted before about life expectancy in the Middle ages (http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/life-expectancy-in-the-middle-ages/ and http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/child-mortality/), indicating that among the elite, both men and women–if they survived childhood–couldn’t reasonably expect to live out of their forties.  Some people did, but what were the mechanisms that kept mortality Read More…

The History of Chicken Pox

Sadly, this post is relevant because my youngest son, who is eight, came down with chicken pox two days ago.  I have no idea where he got it and even worse, he has had it before, though as a five month old child, which seems to be why he was able to get it again.  I’d hoped that having it a second time might mean a milder infection, but it’s not looking good right now.  He has spots in some VERY uncomfortable places. Chicken Pox, so named, has been around Read More…