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 Archbishop and Chancellor.  As you can see from the following article, the rest of the movie is entirely fictive as well:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baldwin_IV_of_Jerusalem Leprosy, also known as ‘Hansen’s Disease’, is a contagious disease caused by a bacteria, Mycobacterium leprae, which is why it is curable post-antibiotics.  Left untreated, leprosy is often Read more…

Medieval Diseases

In the Middle Ages, the range of types of diseases was similar to what we experience today, with some exceptions (HIV/AIDS).   Viruses, of course, are no easier to combat now than then, but without vaccines and if the infected person was living in unclean or freezing conditions, or suffering from a poor diet, the disease was made that much worse.  Antibiotics help with some diseases, but then again, more have sprung up in response to them (C-diff). That said, these are some of the most common diseases people experienced in Europe in the Middle Ages (not including the Black Plague, see:  http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/?p=1000; or leprosy, see:  http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/?p=223) Dysentary:  Still common in poorer countries today, Dysentary is an infection caused either by bacteria or amoebas, spread through contamination of food and water by infected fecal matter.  Typhoid is another such disease spread through bacteria and fecal matter which Read more…