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  • We all think about death on occasion. Sometimes  this leads us to become hypochondriacs for a bit,  

  • other times we think about what happens in the  after life. If you lived in 17th century London  

  • there were some truly frightening and bizarre ways  you might have died. From records collected during  

  • the time period we've found some oddly named  causes of death from the sixteen hundreds. Perhaps  

  • you would die of ague, or jawfain, or worst of  all: the King's Evil. We are going to look at  

  • some of the most unusual causes of death in  17th century London, and what they entail.

  • The causes of death are going to be  broken down into different categories  

  • starting with basic pathogens, and ending  with the weirdest cause of death. By the  

  • time we get to the end you'll be wondering how  anyone survived in 17th century London at all.

  • Epidemiology and other medical fields  had a long way to go in the 1600's.  

  • This meant that the curable diseases of today  were much more likely to kill you at this time.  

  • Even still, the names given to some  of the diseases are perplexing.  

  • If you were to die fromagueit means  you would most likely have had a fever.  

  • Your muscles would ache, and you could have  symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.  

  • This was becauseaguewas the name given to  malaria. Now we have antimalarial drugs that  

  • will help someone recover from the pathogenbut in 1632 London, people were not so lucky.

  • In 1632 348 people died frombloody flux.”  

  • What this identification refers to  is bloody diarrhea and dysentery.  

  • The cause of death in today's medical terms was  most likely from a disease like cholera. There  

  • was also a plethora of pox that killed peopleSometimes smallpox was identified asflocks”  

  • when death occured. Other people died from what  was labeled asFrench pox,” which was syphilis.

  • For really unlucky people they may  have died from theKing's Evil.”  

  • This was an infection of the neck glands. Today  we know this bacterial infection as tuberculosis.  

  • Many parts of the world have now eradicated the  disease by using antibiotic regimens. However,  

  • in 17th century London, the only thing that was  said to cure the disease, was the touch of a  

  • king. Getting an antibiotic prescription  from your doctor, and sticking with it,  

  • is a much more effective way of surviving the  “King's Evil,” just in case you were wondering.

  • Another bacterial infection that was recorded  wasjawfain.” This cause of death could  

  • also have been calledjaw fallenorlockjaw.”  Regardless of what the name was recorded as,  

  • they all were the same disease: tetanus. It is  a bacterial infection that can cause massive  

  • muscle spasms. These contractions  often happen in the jaw and neck,  

  • which causes interference with breathing and  can lead to death. Hence the namejawfain.”

  • Although viruses and bacteria caused many  people to die in London during the 1600s,  

  • sometimes the body destroyed itself. A lot  of this had to do with lifestyles of the day,  

  • and a lack of understanding around  healthy diets and cleanliness.

  • If you died ofapoplexit meant that you were  most likely paralyzed at the time of death.  

  • However, this was not what killed you. Instead,  a rupture or clogging of blood leading to an  

  • aneurysm or internal bleeding would have been  the cause of death. Ifdopsiewas recorded  

  • as your cause of death it meant that like with  “apoplex,” your circulatory system let you down,  

  • and caused massive swelling ofbody part. This is what we call  

  • edema today, but was identified as  “dropsiein 17th century London.

  • This next cause of death is a little  gross, so if you have a weak stomach  

  • prepare yourself. According to records, 13 people  died offistulain 1632 London. “Fistulawas an  

  • anal abscess that became infected. This caused  the anal cavity to fill with pus. The infection  

  • could be cleared out, but if left untreatedit could also lead to death. “Fistulawould  

  • have been an incredibly uncomfortable, and  messy, way for those 13 people to have died.

  • Another cause of death that comes from problems in  the rectum would have been identified aspiles.”  

  • This identification referred to hemorrhoids, which  are inflamed veins in the anus that are caused  

  • from strained bowel movements. This condition can  also develop during pregnancy, or from obesity. If  

  • the bleeding resulting frompilesorfistula”  was left untreated, the person would die.

  • One recorded cause of death that was not super  specific waspurples.” This referred to someone  

  • dying due to widespread bruising. Purples could  have been caused by blunt force trauma, a number  

  • of pathogens, or hemophilia, which affects the  body's ability to clot blood. By identifying the  

  • cause of death aspurplesall the doctor was  saying was that there were bruises on the body.

  • Seven people in the year 1632 died fromquinsie.”  This was an inflammation of the tonsils,  

  • most likely it was what we know  as tonsillitis today. However,  

  • a tonsillectomy would have been much  harder with the lack of instruments  

  • and medical knowledge of the day. When  left untreated, those seven people died  

  • from the tonsils obstructing their breathing  pathway, causing them to suffocate to death.

  • A final cause of death related to the failure  of the body was calledtympany.” This referred  

  • to an abdominal growth, normally a tumor. It would  lead to bloating of the abdomen due to trapped air  

  • or gas. The person would swell up like a balloonWhen being checked fortympany,” a doctor would  

  • thumpthe swollen part of the body, which would  create a hollow sound not unlike a timpani drum.

  • This brings us to the more bizarre  identifications and causes of death  

  • from 1632 London. Some of this stuff  is almost too crazy to believe.

  • It is hard growing up. All children  take a nasty fall, or hurt themselves,  

  • at some point while growing up. It is  a part of learning. But for the most  

  • part in today's society we look out for the  younger generations of our species. However,  

  • in 17th century London, being a child seemed to  come with some unique challenges and dangers.

  • As discussed before, medicine and  medical knowledge had a long way  

  • to go in 17th century London. That meant that  many infants' cause of death were identified as  

  • childbedorchrisomes.” “Childbed”  was a death that occurred shortly after  

  • birth from complications in the delivery process.  “Chrisomeswas the death of an unbaptized infant,  

  • or one that was less than a month old. These  identifications in and of themselves do not  

  • provide a detailed explanation for the deathbut sincechrisomeswas the highest cause of  

  • death recorded at the time, it was clearly  dangerous to be a newborn in 1632 London.

  • One of the crazier causes of death  recorded during this time wasover-laid.”  

  • This referred to when a parent accidentally rolled  over onto their baby while they were sleeping,  

  • and smothered the infant. This was an incredibly  sad and unfortunate cause of death, yet it was  

  • recorded several times during this time period in  London. Also, in the same category asover-laid”  

  • wasstarved at nurse.” This referred to the baby  receiving insufficient amounts of breast milk,  

  • or not gaining the weight required  from the milk it was given to survive.  

  • Either way, it was a sad day when any infant or  child's cause of death needed to be recorded.

  • Other than disease, and failure of a body systemthere were also other causes of death that were  

  • quite peculiar. Kidney stones are incredibly  painful. If they grow large enough they need  

  • to be surgically removed. When the cause of  death for someone was recorded ascut of the  

  • stone,” it referred to someone dying as a result  of the surgery to remove bladder or kidney stones  

  • from the body. The distinction here is that the  stones are not what killed the person, but the  

  • cutthat the doctor made, or an unsuccessful  surgery, is what led to the person's demise.

  • Today we view mental health as a serious aspect of  life that needs to be addressed and treated with  

  • care. However, in 17th century London very little  was actually known about how the brain worked,  

  • and different mental illnesses. Five people  in 1632 were identified as dying from  

  • lunatique.” This was the term given  to someone with mental health issues.  

  • There is no distinction between  what mental state the person was in,  

  • however, there was a stigma against anyone  who was suffering from an ailment of the mind.

  • Not understanding what was happening in  someone's mind led people to fear going insane.  

  • The main worries seemed to be that death  as a “lunatiquewould not allow for  

  • certain religious or deathbed rituals  to occur before the person passed away.

  • This brings us to the most peculiar  causes of death in 17th century London.  

  • The names given to these causes of deathand the causes themselves, are baffling.

  • In 1632 one person's cause of death was recorded  asaffrighted.” This literally meant that the  

  • person was scared to death. It is unclear  what actually caused the person to become  

  • so frightened, but it must have been incredibly  scary to literally have frightened them to death.

  • Another really weird cause of death was listed  asplanet.” This did not mean that they were  

  • somehow crushed by an entire planet, instead, this  cause of death referred to being planet-struck. It  

  • was believed at the time a severe illnessor paralysis, could have been caused by the  

  • influence of one of the celestial bodies in the  sky. There is no scientific evidence that the  

  • motion of the planets, or stars, has any effect  on aspects of someone's life. But in 17th century  

  • London, it would seem that some doctors believed  that the cosmos could directly cause someone to  

  • become sick and die. We're not sure why the stars  and planets would concern themselves with making  

  • someone sick on planet Earth, but apparently  it happened in 1632 London thirteen times.

  • As a side note, this was not the first timecelestial body was associated with an ailment.  

  • It was believed that the moon and its cycles  could cause people to literally go insane.  

  • This is where the word lunatic comes  from. The prefixlunameans moon,  

  • and lunatic refers to insanity caused  by the different phases of the moon.

  • One cause of death that is still shrouded in  mystery isrising of the lights.” It most  

  • likely refers to an illness in the lungs. Perhaps  thelightsreferred to the lightweight organs  

  • that were the lungs, and therising up”  referred to the movement of the chest  

  • during severe coughing. It is unclear what  would distinguishrising of the lightsfrom  

  • other respiratory illnesses, other than it  sounds nicer thandeath by lung infection.”

  • 86 people died fromsurfetin1632 LondonThis is a surprisingly high number for what  

  • surfetactually is. “Surfetis death  by overeating or gluttony. By eating too  

  • much the person could have died due to  dehydration from vomiting excessively.  

  • This cause of death may also refer to  people who died from being overweight,  

  • or diseases connected from obesity such as  diabetes or heart failure. It has also been  

  • suggested thesurfetcould refer to someone who  consumed too much alcohol, passed out, and then  

  • died by choking on their own vomit. Either way,  “surfetwould not have been a pleasant way to go.

  • Many of the causes of death in 17th  century London are still around today, but  

  • are not as prevalent as back then. The names  of certain diseases and complications have  

  • been changed over time with our understanding of  how pathogens and the human body works. However,  

  • it is still puzzling that some of the causes  of death even occurred. Just be thankful that  

  • you didn't live in 1632 where you could have died  byplanet,” “piles,” orrising of the lights.”

  • Now check outWorst Jobs  That Will Literally Kill You.”  

  • Or go and watchDiseases That  Will Kill You The Quickest.”

We all think about death on occasion. Sometimes  this leads us to become hypochondriacs for a bit,  

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B1 death london died referred century recorded

This is How You'd Have Died if You Lived in London in the Early 17th Century

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    Summer posted on 2021/05/02
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