The 17th century was a period of high mortality.
The period generally saw higher mortality rates than the Tudor period that came before, and the rates were much higher than the Georgian period that came after. More
Medicine experienced great changes during Stuart times.
The 17th century saw many advances in understanding how the human body worked. The study of anatomy, much of it done in Italy under Andreas Vesalius and his disciples, made a huge contribution to medical knowledge, and the English scientist, William Harvey, greatly advanced our understanding of the circulation of blood. More
Interest in medical study was increasing.
The first great medical schools were being established; despite this, only a few doctors received full-time training at a medical school. More
Training for most doctors was still poor.
Most doctors still learnt their profession as apprentices to older and more experienced men. This meant that the tried and tested (and, in many cases, lethally dangerous) methods remained in force. More
Medical knowledge and methods to prevent illness were limited.
The main prevention against infectious disease was to flee the area where it had broken out. Those who could, did so. Those who could not - the poor, or those whose duties kept them in their posts such as magistrates, clergymen and doctors - took various measures to protect themselves. One popular one was the burning of strong spices. More
The Great Plague of London was the most famous outbreak of bad health.
Arriving in the Autumn of 1664, by September 1665, 7,000 people a week were dying. It has traditionally been attributed to the Bubonic Plague, but modern scholars are not sure what the infection was and some have even suggested it was a particularly virulent form of flu. More
The Plague was largly confined to London.
The Plague of London did not spread throughout the rest of the country, as previous outbreaks of plague had done. This is somewhat surprising, as many London residents fled the capital. Early public health measures included local magistrates in villages preventing strangers from entering the village. More
There were certainly local outbreaks of the disease, most notably in Derbyshire.
The epidemic would have been much worse here, if it had not been for the self-sacrifice of the people of Eyam, who isolated themselves in their village. One of the interesting things that modern scholars note is the lack of panic, and the way local communities stuck together. More
The Great Plague of London was finally killed off by the Fire of London.
Although the great fire, which destroyed the medieval heart of the city in 1666, only saw a few deaths, fire was a constant danger in many towns. London was rebuilt using brick, stone and tiles rather than thatched roofs and wooden construction, which were forbidden, and roads were widened. More
Cities were still very unhealthy places to live.
Despite rebuilding after the fire, London and other towns and cities remained deadly places to live and work. The utterly inadequate provision of drains and sewers created huge health hazards. This caused a continuously high death toll. More
Coffee was used as a medicine as well as a drink for pleasure.
The Civil War saw many deaths and injuries.
The period also saw the English Civil Wars (1642–51), a series of armed conflicts between the supporters of Parliament and the supporters of the king. It ended with the Parliamentary victory on 3 September 1651. As well as those who died in battle, many soldiers injured in the fighting later died from infection or blood loss. More
A 'Little Ice Age' saw very cold winters.
The health of people in England, and other northern European nations, must have been affected by lower temperatures. During the period roughly between 1600 and 1850, temperatures were lower by about 1 degree than they are now. The general health of people, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, would have suffered. More
Improvements in housing conditions helped people survive the cold winters.
The colder conditions in the 17th century were, in some ways, made less bad by the more comfortable houses being built from Elizabethan times onwards. More
Life expectancy was longer amongst the poor than the rich.
It has been noted by modern scholars that members of the poorer classes often lived longer, healthier lives than the rich at this time. Many aristocratic families found themselves without heirs to their estates. More
Famine was becoming a thing of the past, improving the health of the poor.
Famine had been an ever present cause of death for the poor but, towards the end of the Stuart period, the growth and availability of more food saw even the poor eating enough food to keep healthy. More