Dangerous days
November 23, 2014 3:42 AM   Subscribe

 
Accidental deaths in late Plantagenet England:

"Fell off horse, and onto two swords, several pikes, and a series of daggers."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:51 AM on November 23, 2014 [13 favorites]


Tudor Death Trip. Cool!

Liked this image: "Hygiene accidents were mostly a matter of washing or relieving oneself into water deep enough to drown in."
posted by spitbull at 3:52 AM on November 23, 2014


When researching ancestors I was fortunate to be able to look at some old cemetery registers from the 19th century in Pittsburgh. The listed causes of death painted a very vivid picture of the times, with river drownings and travel/freight accidents most common. The language used was also instructive; many died of "lung complaint" or "bad stomach," and of course many involved industrial accidents.

Interesting read, thanks for posting.
posted by kinnakeet at 3:59 AM on November 23, 2014


I wonder how they would classify Amy Robsart.
posted by orrnyereg at 4:12 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


orrnyereg you have to read this to fond out.
posted by adamvasco at 5:03 AM on November 23, 2014


Bad vapours.
posted by arcticseal at 6:12 AM on November 23, 2014


October was the characteristic month for falling out of trees while trying to beat down acorns to fatten pigs for slaughter.

The way that's phrased makes it sound like a shame we've lost this quaint tradition of seasonal plummeting from rickety boughs.
posted by sobarel at 6:38 AM on November 23, 2014 [9 favorites]


Think of all the displaced acorn-beaters!
posted by IAmBroom at 6:45 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Think of the skinny pigs.
posted by spitbull at 6:46 AM on November 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


The way that's phrased makes it sound like a shame we've lost this quaint tradition of seasonal plummeting from rickety boughs.


I blame Thatcher.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:49 AM on November 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Now I know where Dave Edmunds got "Subtle As A Flying Mallet" from.
posted by tommasz at 7:11 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


To be honest, TheWhiteSkull, it sounds like the sort of thing Thatcher would have been in favour of.
posted by marienbad at 7:12 AM on November 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Nowadays an Englishman can't even break his neck and get eaten by his own swine without the Nanny State getting involved. It's political correctness gone mad.
posted by sobarel at 7:19 AM on November 23, 2014 [24 favorites]


I've never understood all the drowning deaths of centuries past. Why didn't more people learn to swim in those days? It blows my mind to read that even many sailors couldn't swim.
posted by orange swan at 7:27 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've heard it said that in the age of sail there was little point in learning to swim as if you went overboard there was no chance of the ship being able to turn and rescue you. Better to get it over with quickly.

I suppose also in Britain and other northern seafaring countries it would have been difficult for many people to find a safe and clean place to learn to swim, and a bit of paddling in a local brook wouldn't have been much use on the high seas. Water is pretty seriously cold for most of the year here too.
posted by sobarel at 7:47 AM on November 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Accidental deaths in Bronze Age England:

"Crushed by menhir, dolmen, or henge."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:49 AM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Crushed by menhir

The number one cause of injuries amongst Roman legionaries occupying northern Gaul too, if one believes the historical literature.
posted by sobarel at 8:05 AM on November 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Loved this. In a similar vein, one of my favorite Twitter feeds is Medieval Death Bot

Amice Belamy, died 1269 after slipping and falling into a large tub of grout, which did then fall upon her, scalding her

John of St. Leger, knight, died in 1326 in the parsonage of Oundle, having no wound, but the lower part of his body was ruptured.

Gilbert de Poxlee, died 1306 of a wound received at the revels of the tailors, though he survived it nearly two months

posted by madamjujujive at 8:13 AM on November 23, 2014 [11 favorites]


Revels of the tailors?

Was this like carousing with needles and bodkins?
posted by BlueHorse at 8:31 AM on November 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Coroner's rolls are fascinating to me for precisely the little things they tell us about a way of living that's long gone. (And thanks for the Medieval Death Bot--I needed that!)
posted by immlass at 9:05 AM on November 23, 2014


Football was blamed for distracting men from archery, but was also far from safe, as rough tackles and collisions, stony pitches, and the ill-advised habit of playing with a food knife tucked into one's belt took their share of victims.

"Ill-advised."
posted by Lexica at 9:14 AM on November 23, 2014


Death by Maypole? All I can imagine is getting too close in to the pole, getting caught up in the streamers, unable to escape, and dying of extended exposure when no-one notices you and you've got one streamer blocking your mouth. I also imagine it happening to Bill Oddie.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:33 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


It blows my mind to read that even many sailors couldn't swim.

Just after the tudor era many of those sailors were pressed so they didn't exactly plan on being sailors. I'm not sure how they recruited before that.

Plus remember people were not learning to swim in the nice heated pools of today. They were learning in cold ponds and oceans at a time when catching a chill could kill.
posted by srboisvert at 9:33 AM on November 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Revels of the tailors?


Fashion Week.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:27 AM on November 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


These auld thyme deaths seem most unpleasant. Give me a futuristic demise. Death by snu-snu, for example, seems like a much more pleasant way to shuffle off.
posted by slkinsey at 11:01 AM on November 23, 2014


"Children also perished at work whilst engaged in such tasks as driving carts, carrying sacks of malt, or taking horses to water: the inquest reports show that for those aged 7—13 years a third of deaths were work-related."
posted by donovan at 11:02 AM on November 23, 2014


I've never understood all the drowning deaths of centuries past. Why didn't more people learn to swim in those days?

If they didn't live near the coast, where would they go to learn, though? If a nearby river or stream was deep enough to swim in there could be dangerous currents, or nearby lakes could maybe be on private land; it's not really worth drowning in your village water supply or getting shot for assumed poaching (altho "caught poaching naked" would make for a fun tombstone), etc. Also who would teach them? Would they risk just throwing themselves into the water and flailing around on the off-chance that one day they might be pressed? It's not like you could sign your kids up for swim lessons at school.

Even today, knowing how to swim remains a class signifier in the US, possibly in the UK as well, idk. If you're not near a publicly available body of water, and you can't afford to travel to one, your options are really limited.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:53 PM on November 23, 2014


Even today, knowing how to swim remains a class signifier in the US, possibly in the UK as well, idk.

Swimming lessons are a mandatory part of the National Curriculum, so I don't think there's a class aspect to it here. On paper everyone should be able to swim competently by the end of primary school.

My friend who grew up on Islay was forced to learn to swim in the sea as there wasn't a pool on the island at the time, and remembers being smothered in freezing seaweed and spume. I just had the pleasure of an unheated pool and undergoing a special test in which everyone had to retrieve a brick from the deep end while wearing pyjamas. Character building, I'm sure.
posted by sobarel at 2:52 PM on November 23, 2014


Death by Maypole?

Just one of many ways to die during the harvest feast on Summerisle.
posted by maxsparber at 6:00 PM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


An ancestor of mine died in the 1600's when he and two of his neighbors hired a boat to take their grain across Long Island Sound to be milled. The boat went down, and all that was left whas their three hats that washed ashore the next day.

I'm having a great time imagining a Tudor version of Quincy, played by Jack Klugman in a surgical-blue silk doublet and a lab-coat-white shoulder cape. He lives on a barge on the Thames, his assistant is kitted out in full Ming Dynasty robes, and his boss is always on him to "Close thy cases with all expediency, good Quince."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:56 PM on November 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


I presume that swimming competency wasn't about access to water, as there is no shortage of swimmable water in Britain, and it gets reasonably hot in summer. I don't think kids have changed so much that they wouldn't have wanted to go splashing about on a warm day.
Maybe more about poor training?
I can imagine that if you didn't know anybody who could swim, you might be able to figure out a kind of dog paddle to keep afloat, but how would you develop the more efficient strokes?
Although I note wikipedia suggests breaststroke has been around since the stone age.
posted by bystander at 7:02 PM on November 23, 2014


I don't think kids have changed so much that they wouldn't have wanted to go splashing about on a warm day.

and thus was the great national pastime of Having A Paddle was born
posted by poffin boffin at 7:15 PM on November 23, 2014


At least some of those drowning deaths are going to be less "can't swim" and more "hit head falling in" or "was drunk or very ill when fell in."
posted by emjaybee at 7:44 PM on November 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Surfeit of arrows.
posted by Wolof at 11:02 PM on November 23, 2014 [5 favorites]


Occupational health was regionalised across England in ways we might still recognise: accidents involving coal, for instance, were concentrated in Yorkshire and the north Midlands.

Interesting, I wonder if the author is mistaking "coal" to mean mineral or "seacoal" which was mined only in small amounts for heating fuel until 1590 when Thomas Proctor devised the coking process and revolutionized modern industry. Prior to that "coal" would have referred to wood charcoal which was being processed in large volumes in the last remaining areas of British forrest - coincidentally the Midlands and Yorkshire. Supplies of wood were quickly being depleted by these processors which helped fuel (pun intended) the Tudor conquest of still then forrested Ireland.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:08 AM on November 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


as there is no shortage of swimmable water in Britain, and it gets reasonably hot in summer.

I lived in Birmingham, England for 7 years. I'm afraid I have to disagree with both your assertions.
posted by srboisvert at 7:54 AM on November 25, 2014


I lived in Bath when I was a boy. There were Roman baths. Still are. I assume they are mostly used to wash the mud off from the endless rain.
posted by maxsparber at 8:33 AM on November 25, 2014


I lived in Bath when I was a boy. There were Roman baths. Still are. I assume they are mostly used to wash the mud off from the endless rain.

I assume they swam in the giant pool of liver in Liverpool. It would have been a shame to waste a natural resource like that.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:11 AM on November 25, 2014 [3 favorites]


I wonder what they did in Cocking then.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:11 PM on November 25, 2014 [1 favorite]


Cockermouth
posted by asok at 1:14 AM on November 28, 2014


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