Hidden Killers of the Tudor Home (Tudor Documentary) | Timeline



nowadays we think of the Tudor home as an icon of Britishness timber-framed maybe thatched a cottage sounds wonderful but these quaint pretty relics of the past Bulai the revolution in technology that changed them and us this is the great age of change it's one of the reasons will love the Tudor period so much because it's the Age of Discovery and there's a sense that anything is possible one place this change was most evident was in the home domestic life was transformed but as with anything new there were risks from the new technology that warmed our rooms to the exotic foods that filled the table you're using a luxury to show off but there's hidden death behind him afraid feels really naughty and the radical treatments introduced to the medicine cabinets new life-threatening changes made their way into the heart of the Tudor home with the help of modern science and historic records I'll investigate what really went on in the Tudor household I'll find out about the hidden dangers and what killed tutors in their very own houses welcome to the treacherous world of the real Tudor home this house dates from the end of the Tudor Age around 1590 at the time there was an emergence of people with new wealth who had aspirations for their homes this is the house of someone in the middling sort those are the middle ranks of society in a pre capitalist age before the talk of classes makes any sense so it's professionals artisans yeoman farmers and in this case a successful merchant the increasingly wealthy people of the middling sort built new kinds of houses and the unforeseen consequence was that they introduced hidden killers to the home but how exactly did these beautiful buildings threaten the lives of the merchants and Yurman who inhabited them many previously unknown dangers made their way back here from newly discovered distant lands some arriving directly into their kitchens and dining rooms this was an age of discovery that transformed Tudor life an exploration conquest colonization and trade all had their impact on the Tudor home in various guises the middling sort benefited from a boom in trade prospering from the new markets and goods becoming available new items and imported luxuries from food to furniture helped make the home more comfortable than ever before the Tudor period is definitely the start of a real investment in material things for ordinary for relatively ordinary people so there's a huge increase in the number and quality of items that people would have had in their homes from rich textile hangings and furnishings to more furniture additional bedding and many more items of tableware costly showy items like pewter are definitely the kind of thing you want to invest in and display in the home is a way of indicating that you have wealth you have status it's part of your sort of self fashioning of your identity and it was in the dining room where the taste for the new and exotic was clearly visible overseas trade for new Goods potatoes tomatoes and the abundance of things that were previously rare like this did you know until the 1540s the English didn't have a word for this color and of course it led to the mass production of a substance so valuable and delicious they would have become known as white gold and not tobacco sugar sugar had been a fantastically expensive commodity throughout the Middle Ages but in Tudor times the price dropped sharply through using slave labor production costs were Keplar so on the back of the slave trade sugar became an attainable luxury for people of the middling sort the rather bland medieval diet of bread pottage beans lentils oats dairy and eggs occasional meat and if absolutely necessary vegetables began to be enhanced with sugar what's the process by which we could produce sugar it comes in to your house looking like this as a girl oaf but it has to be broken up someone's got to sit there with a hammer and then a pestle and mortar and if you want sort of an icing sugar to sprinkle over things as a lovely dish which is just a salad of lemons it's sprinkled with dusted sugar well in some Paula has got to sit there and push it through a silk sieve so this is work hours in sugar as well as expense sugar becomes something that's a sort of desirable way of displaying status so you might use sweet treats at the end of a meal the banquet of course it's known as with no sense that sugar could be bad for you they would even show off and play with sugar disguising it to look like some other delicacy so we've got here a little dish of nuts there's little sugar shells with a little bit of sugar and almond in the middle like a marzipan dusted with cinnamon to give it the nutty color and you get to eat a pure sweet and what's this well white earth did I lay up some bacon on the table we're supposed to be being spoilt and bacon is is a working man's food but not in this case it's been made to look like bacon by dyeing some of the sugar with cochineal and leaving the rest white to look like fat but it's in fact all sugar what are these those are little tutu roses in sugar and the middle one I've covered that in silver leaf so the one that looks silver is actually pure silver on top and that's that's showing your your diners real luxury because you've taken a luxury ingredient like sugar put man hours into it and then put a precious metal on top as well from nowhere sugar became the must-have item at any well-to-do meal what would it be like to have all of the sugar must be really intense yes I don't think we can really imagine it we've grown up with sugar all of our lives it's in most of our foods somewhere even bread so to go somewhere where your diet has been virtually sugar free and be given a table full of sugar I think it's gonna be a huge release of energy of course we could have why not a battery course so if you just had sugar and alcohol for the first time you're gonna be buzzing so why don't you try one of the sugar nuts she was really naughty as sugar became more popular and its consumption more widespread the wealthy ostentatious sugar lover would have little idea of the trouble the lay ahead in the Museum of London storage vaults dr. Jelena McFarlane studies the remains of almost 20,000 bodies spanning the city's history it's a unique resource that reveals changes in disease patterns over time I've come to see what evidence 16th century teeth can provide for the impact of sugar on our health you know no tell me about these different scores what are they telling us well what they're showing us and telling us is the changes that we might see in the dentition and dental health and we see a marked change from medieval period the early media people coming through up until sort of the more recent times if I just turn this back over here you can see you've got a lovely set of teeth here and this is medieval yeah so this is early medieval and I mean they're at their a fairly young individual there they are an adult but you can see here that you haven't got any changes of decay you've got lovely enamel formation but if we come to this individual you can see here that you've lost the molars if you look at the mandible you can just see there you've just got roots of the teeth where they just really sort of been rotted away and the decay has completely destroyed all of the enamel so this one's a medieval skull and this one dates from pretty about sort of that mid 16th century so this is later on and this is then sort of the time than you've had sugar being introduced it's more freely available and you can see the consequences in their teeth so in both the Opera and the lower jaw you've got these huge gaps imagine how painful it would have been to go through that it must've been actually horrendous yes because I've had toothache and an abscess and it was absolutely horrible it was really really nasty so to have had that amount of teeth affected must have been absolutely ghastly unfortunately the methods people in the Tudor period used to clean their teeth didn't really help in fact they unwittingly made things worse the cheaters would use toothpicks a lot and they would wipe their teeth with tooth cloths and they would use a variety of powders and pastes and solutions often with rose water actually often with sugar or honey in it as well which it's not very helpful with the decay they would sometimes use alabaster sticks and with particularly tough stains they might use a powder which was ground coral and pumice stone which would also take away the enamel of course they also had kissing comforts which were perfumed sweets which would take away bad breath but did nothing for the decay tragically the Tudors had no idea that they were in the grip of what would become a centuries-long addiction it's the sweet taste of sugar that attracts us all but part of the reason for that is that it has an effect on the chemicals of our body sugar helps us absorb an amino acid called tryptophan which is used to make the neurotransmitter serotonin and this is a chemical that affects the brain to make us feel happy and content it's one of the sort of like a pleasure chemical and so sugar is linked to that and so it's thought that that's why people like sugar and that's why it is sometimes described as being addictive in 1592 the tudors began recording deaths and mortality bills they include all manner of apparent causes and all the biggest killers make an appearance plague fever consumption and surprisingly teeth are there to bad teeth can you really die from bad teeth yes yes absolutely tooth disease can be a killer teeth are deadly if you've got that amount of decay happening and that can then also affect the bone so you can then form an abscess and if that's then draining internally you've got all of that poison actually going inside you that can cause you a lot of problems with your health et fell pretty deadly actually the acids bacteria produce eat into the teeth allowing infection to take root bacteria can then get into the bloodstream and attack other parts of the body but without antibiotics there was very little the Tudor dentist could do beyond pulling teeth they would have had no understanding at all of the fact that sugar was damaging the rest of the body so high sugar levels could be predisposing them to be dead develop diseases like diabetes and then the bacteria from the decaying teeth would be damaging perhaps the heart valves and the kidneys so it could be causing damage to all of the internal organs and they would have no idea until it was too late so sugar really can be a killer yes because if you if you're affected that badly then it can have that really awful effect on you on your health and then cause you're you know your demise caused you to die sugar was a slow burn killer taking centuries for its true impact to be felt now it's considered by some to be responsible for some of the greatest health problems of our time the biggest danger though wasn't what they ate but the very construction of the home itself I'm making my way into the main room of the house on the trail of the next killer in fact is sitting right here hidden in plain sight it's not the fireplace but the chimney before the chimney was widely adopted early Tudor homes like medieval houses before them could easily fill up with life-threatening smoke the typical Tudor house was a long house then it was you know a great whorehouse there was a fire in center we'll hold in the roof where it took a smoke away these early makeshift fence didn't work well allowing noxious fumes to build up in the home the chimney offered a brilliant solution the change from having an atmosphere indoors where you're constantly breathing smoke and your eyes are weeping to having one where it's drawing and you've got clean air around you is enormous and certainly anybody who could afford to would have moved over as soon as they got to grips of the idea of this new technology being available not only did the chimney make the home more comfortable it had a dramatic impact on its overall layout over the course of the Tudor periods with the introduction of to begin with quite experimental chimneys more opportunities become possible for pushing the fire to the side of the room enclosing the fire allows you to subdivide that space making possible new ideas of privacy and comfort to some extent so the chimney Archard in the biggest change to the middling sorts home for many centuries for the first time ordinary homes could have an upstairs level separate rooms to sleep him a kitchen and a room to dine in and each one had its own chimney it revolutionized domestic life but these comforts came at a price the chimney brought a host of hidden dangers as the century went on there were regular reports of fires sweeping through whole towns in the year 1538 a great and sudden fire happened in the night season which within the space of three hours consumed more than a dozen houses and nine persons were burnt to death there in the year 15:41 a great fire began which burned so saw that the flame firing the whole house and consuming it was seen all the city over 1485 Sir John haulin together with the parson and his man also burnt in that fire and in Shakespeare's birthplace of stratford-upon-avon there were two major fires one in 1594 that burned down half the town and another a year later destroyed the remaining half to find out what caused these fires the tutors examined the construction of the chimney in the rush to introduce this new technology you get a builder in or you do the work yourself not necessarily to the highest specification there's no Building Regulations so a lot of these early chimneys are built out of really inappropriate materials timber and wattle so that's earth you could stock your fire and light it the wooded burn there sparks would go up the back of the chimney and then all of a sudden the Wicker on the back of their ship knee would catch a light and I could smolder for hours and hours year when he finally would be fast asleep and that chimney was burning away and knowingly and then of course that would spread to the roof and then he wouldn't be getting up to the building then as well as using flammable materials in its construction Tudor builders had yet to work out the basic principles that make a chimney function it took quite a while before they realized that you had to have an aperture in the front of the fireplace that was no more than 10 times the narrowest point in the chimney if you don't do that then it won't draw properly you'll get smoke spilling back into the room the drawer is the suction effect that quite literally draws smoke and gases away from the fire up the chimney and out of the house but if the drawers not strong enough smoke lingers in the chimney for far too long with deadly consequences the smoke used to sit over halfway up the chimney and it would just tumble now anybody knows anything about fires those are smokers and burnt fuel forensic fire expert Emma Wilson can demonstrate the impact of unburned fuel in a tudor chimney the smoke that has been produced by the fire at the base of the chimney ignites and all of the smoke that's exiting the chimney begins to flame very quickly the smoke itself captures fire the smoke catches fire yes and I've got an experiment to show you how combustible smoke can be okay so without an effective draw thick suit deposits build up inside the chimney smoke hangs around in the flue until the heat builds up to ignition point it's easy to see this effect in Emma's experimental chimney so you can see the gas is coming at the top start to get the ticking there you are got flames at the top already imagine the effect of these flames on a thatched roof so I suppose at first people didn't realize that this happened with chimney now if he'd never had a chimney before how would you know that this could happen how would you know that you had to clean the inside of your chimney so when people first started using chimneys I imagine you built it and you thought that was it whereas actually we now know that cleaning or chimney regularly is something you've just got to do is prevent chimney fires from occurring in Tudor times as today the consequences of fire could be devastating pamphlets like this one from 1586 poetically chart the emotional impact of these frequent fires so the chimney could be lethal my joys are departed my comfort is gone my people poor creatures are mourning in woe they describe really horrendous heart-rending experiences of the individuals losing obviously their lives their children and their property and there's quite a bit of attention paid in these accounts to the the kinds of goods being lost and burned and a sense of just tremendous ruin and loss a rude fellow by firing up his chimney procured their casualty there are accounts of a third of towns being taken out by these major fires that are sometimes traced back to just one individual not looking after their chimney properly so the chimney could be lethal but the biggest cause of death was not fire itself dr. Steven Gunn is conducting important new research into some 9,000 coroner's inquest records from around the country during this period these documents are a unique source of statistical data about Tudor life and provide a whole new insight into death in the Tudor home we actually in the coroner's reports find that there are more house collapses killing people than house fires because Tudor houses are mostly made out of things that burn quite easily they're mostly timber-framed but they burn quite slowly so people have the chance to get out the problem is they're building chimneys onto houses and of course chimneys are large structures so we have chimneys collapsing during fires or when fires are lit inside them brick was the Wonder material that distinguished the architecture of the Tudor Age but it turns out that early bricks had a hidden weakness when it comes to the defining feature of a 16th century house coal and wood they would burn in inside a chimney wood at about a thousand degrees C and coal at about 1,200 degrees C that was way more than the brick could handle so the bricks just couldn't handle the heat whatsoever and they would explode that the mortar that was holding the bricks together would expand then it would contract for like the bricks would be split and the chimney would come crashing down so for example we've got an accident in Kent in 1518 with a fire that breaks out at a house in Wingham in Kent several men run to put the fire out Thomas Adams one of them's called Arthur over and another one they get to help put the fire out with other people but again in the course of the fire the Brit Jimmy collapses on top of them so it's actually the collapsing material rather than the fire itself that kills them in the end the Tudors gradually came to understand the risks to life and property that chimneys could pose to tackle the problem they drew up what were effectively the very first health and safety laws for chimneys there are ordinances for example issued in Oxford in 1582 that actually make it the responsibility of H each individual householder to construct their chimneys and their rooms in appropriate materials so not thatch for the roof but are late and brick or stone for the chimney that all chimneys occupied with fire within the said city shall from henceforth be swept four times every year whereupon pain a forfeiture for every time that any chimney shall happen to be fired three shillings four pans to be paid by the owners of the same chimneys so fired but even these laws couldn't prevent the Great Fire of London 84 years later despite all the new luxuries of Tudor life and the proliferation of grand multi room houses in many ways the house remains firmly lodged in the medieval period much of what we think of as the basics of domestic life simply weren't there for us there's nothing more fundamental than the utility and convenience of running water but for the Tudors there was no such thing as a bathroom or a shower my next hidden killer lies outside the four walls of the house the woman of the house certainly was the woman needs to bring every drop of water that the family required to the door this bucket became a familiar and tedious burden water is a very heavy substance and so if you've got to acquire it from any distance for your household that's going to be quite a major part of the effort that's put in during the day all sorts of chores that we today do inside our cozy modern homes the Tudors were forced to do outside particularly washing and laundry this meant spending an awful lot of time down at the nearest water source in all weathers all year round effectively making them an extension to the home because ponds and stream has played such a major role in daily life it's no surprise that they also appear in literature often lethally but long it could not be till that her garments heavy with their drink pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay to muddy death many of Shakespeare's plays and much writing of the time feature characters drowning and analysis of the coroner's reports reveals for the first time the number of deaths due to drowning in the Tudor period the biggest contrast with today is the amount of drowning so in 2010 in the UK about 2% of accidental deaths with drownings in our period in the 16th century it's more like 40% gosh why so many well people are exposed to open water in lots and lots of different contexts the single largest cause is probably fetching water but then there are lots of other things that people have to do for household purposes that involve going to the water you have to take animals to water you often have to travel across water and of course the other thing is people have to wash their clothes we've got an accident here with a young woman she's described as a spinster so an unmarried woman called Ursula red soul this is 1556 and it says she went to a pond she was washing a little tunic called a petticoat and she was sitting on a bridge called a plank and she fell off the plank into the pond and she drowned elizabeth bennet collecting wart leaves to put under bread she was baking in the house the fence broke she fell into the moat and drowned elizabeth core monger washing linen clothes on the bank of a river the feet slipped she fell into the water and drowned leonard elaine relieving himself on the verge of a ditch when he crouched his feet slipped and he fell backwards into the water so why did so many drown and often in quite shallow water in the interest of science I'm donning authentic tudor garb and heading down to her nearby pool on a fresh spring morning the water temperatures around 12 degrees the coroner's report suggests it was all too easy to slip and fall into the water with potentially lethal consequences first reflex when our body hits cold water is to gasp you have a sudden intake in air and it's completely involuntary and there's nothing you can do about it and if you're under the water when that happens you breathe in water and as soon as that cold water hits the back of your throat and your larynx your voice box it can cause it to go into spasm and that will effectively suffocate you even in relatively mild weather like this the water temperature is a shock my reaction may sound extreme but the cold really makes me gasp to catch my breath water takes heat away from your body 25 times more quickly than in air of the same temperature so you very rapidly lose heat from the body and as soon as that happens your bodily functions just stop working as well as the cord and the shock it's difficult to keep my balance my clothes are dragging getting caught up the difficulty was getting out it's not immediately my clothes I get them very heavy wall is uniquely good at absorbing moisture under the microscope it reveals itself to have a surprisingly complex physical and chemical structure it's made up of two internal layers while the outer layer is water dirt and stain repellent the inner layer is highly absorbent so wall can take in more moisture than any other fiber before becoming saturated just imagining it wall can absorb up to one and a half times its dry weight which means my clothes are much heavier as I try to get out I didn't feel it when I was submerged but as soon as I tried to stand up it's a hefty added burden it's really not easy struggling to stand up on slippery mud while freezing cold and weighed down by wet wall so it was a combination of heavy clothing slippery banks and the shock of the cold water that made drowning so prevalent the tutors were certainly aware of the problem and as the sixteenth century wore on they began to take precautions towards the end of the Tudor period people began to put covers on village walls they fenced off water courses they installed water pumps and as communities work together to create safe sources of water so the risk of death by drowning declined the idea of the home is something encompassed by four walls is a very modern notion so much of their domestic life involved the space outside as well as the rooms inside the Tudors instead the house was open and permeable humans and animals tumbled in and out in a colourful cacophonous mess from sunrise to sundown the famous Dutch humanist Erasmus visited Cambridge and he was disgusted by the state of the rushes these were the straw and the hay that they would they would put on the ground to keep the house warm to keep the house dry and he said that occasionally they would change the top layer but the bottom layer would sometimes stay there for 20 odd years and it was full of ale it was full of fish juice it was full of vomit it was for the leakage of men and of dogs and of other abominations not fit to mention you'd have somebody was called a gong farmer who would clean his Esprit actually disease was obviously rife there was dysentery cholera typhoid three of the biggest ones in the Tudor period which would kill him no problems at all so if you went to work one day with a cut on your arm or your leg and the Gentry was going to the toilet and it covered you it was only a matter of time before one of those diseases came knocking on the door in these circumstances then it's easy to understand how something as basic and natural as childbirth was very dangerous around 20 out of every thousand women died in childbirth in comparison to eight maternal deaths per hundred thousand births in Britain today when women give birth often they're very vulnerable to infection the lining of the womb is a raw wound and there may be cuts and tears in the genital tract and all of those give an opportunity for infective organisms like bacteria to get into the bloodstream and that can be a very dangerous thing because people have no idea about how infections were caused the concept of micro organisms like viruses or bacteria causing disease that came hundreds of years later infection was a huge hidden killer in Tudor times as we can understand from the coroner's inquest reports that medical context explains why we have many of these accidental deaths because lots of these are people who cut themselves or break a limb they might cut themselves on a knife they might break a leg falling out of a tree in there in the the yard next to their house picking fruit or whatever and they wouldn't die from that now but under sixteenth-century circumstances they have infection in a wound or they have a blood clot which causes them problems from a broken leg and so actually the coroner's inquest reports report them dying five days ten days 15 days after the accident but they still say that the accident was obviously the thing that caused it the coroner's reports tell us that between 1558 and 1560 unusual deaths from accidents around the country include death from crushed testicles after playing games at Christmas wrestling falling masonry 56 deaths were due to archery and one – an escaped bear but whatever the cause of injury or sickness get ill in the 15th or 16th century and you'd be unlikely to call in a professional doctor except an extremist most people of the middling sort would treat themselves at home using herbs and ingredients from recipes passed down through the generations for the Tudor housewife the medicine cabinet was limited to her knowledge and what was grown locally in the garden of a home of the middling sort there would be a special section laid out specifically for growing herps remedies for daily ailments in effect a Tudor first aid kit then a big Tudor house they would have their own physic garden and there's a vast early modern what's called a pharmacopoeia which is a body of herbal knowledge and an understanding of which plants can help you which plants can heal you and what conditions they can be used to treat now even the smallest cottage in the village the person living there will have that the same knowledge even if they don't have the physic garden but they'll know where to go in their local area to go and pick herbs Stewart peaches custodian have a small tutor staff physic garden what sort of plants do they think were useful medicinally well we've got things like tansy here now Tan's is useful in springtime about the end of Lent because they thought that the intestinal worms they suffered from was partly result of all the fish that they'd eaten over that Lenten period and tansy is very good because it's a relatively mild poison that kills the worms next to that we've got Rou now Rou is one of a battery of different plants that can be used to induce abortion pennyroyal is another one long worked with it's what it leaves there that one is good for infections of the lung easing the chest and would have been used as a general herb in that area so the Tudor garden is really the ultimate in organic natural medicine absolutely it's free as well as far as they're concerned according to some sources 150 plants were considered to have useful medicinal qualities all grown in the garden and prepared in the home people have this vast storehouse of medical knowledge and remedies and they pass them around that may be to their families it might be to the friends and neighbors and of course when that happens the medicine spreads out into ever-growing circles it's also worth remembering that virtually our entire corpus of medical remedies tablets today are based on plants we are still using perhaps the same plants but we're distilling and we're using them in the different ways that the power is lies within the chemicals in the plants and that's what worked then and it works no but herbal cures weren't without their dangers get the dose wrong and you'd find yourself in trouble many of these plants are safe in small doses and toxic in high doses for example something like tansy which actually was very widely used as a way of purging worms from your body in the springtime later in the year that becomes toxic as the active ingredients build up in concentration and you can make yourself quite ill with it a mixed up with some effective practical cures were some very odd beliefs there was this idea that something that looks like the thing you're trying to treat might actually help it and so there's a plant that's been called pile wort for example because it's roots look a bit like piles and this was used to treat hemorrhoids or piles because the plant looked a bit like what it was treating these superstitious beliefs along with the unpredictability of some herbal cures men that Tudor medicine always had the potential to go disastrously wrong but a radical German invention seemed poised to change all of this for the better Johannes Gutenberg had invented his movable type printing press forty years before the Tudor era one of the things that is changing with medicine at this point is that with the introduction of printing which occurs just before the start of the Tudor period it is far easier to disseminate knowledge people have written books on medicine since classical times but what you're now seeing is the printed page making that more widely available initially printing presses were used mainly to produce religious texts but by the mid 16th century printers had found a new market publishing home manuals a mixture of remedies and recipes and these books are enormous John Jarrod's runs from out almost 1,700 pages profusely Illustrated and designed to enable you to clearly identify the plants and know what their effects are and what the toxicities are to some extent as well as what the benefits are bestsellers were reprinted over and over again to meet popular demand historians estimate that maybe 400,000 medical books were printed all together in the Tudor period suddenly those who could afford it had access to thousands of recipes in just one book far beyond their previous knowledge and all written by a supposed medical expert at first glance the books appear to contain no shortage of sound advice like John Jarrod's recommendation against planting deadly nightshade if you will follow my counsel deal not with the same in any case and banish it from your Gardens three boys did eat of the pleasant and beautiful fruit here of to where four died in less than eight hours after they had eaten them these medical books made their way into the Tudor home where they would have played a pivotal role in everyday life or death they're there to help people in the absence of a doctor that they're sort of called things like every man his own physician and they may be set out my body part so therefore you just simply leaf your way through and find something that's wrong with you but the medical tomes weren't necessarily the wonderful cure rules they first appeared to be some of the recipes found in their pages seem very odd today mrs. Andrew boards breatharian health medical treatise that was something of a best-seller in the 16th century and it includes all sorts of remedies including this one here for the palsy so it says take a Fox with all the skin and all the body quartered and with the heart liver and lungs and the fatness of the entrails stones and kidneys Steve is it long in running water with Calla mint bomb and Caraway's and bathed the patient in the water of it and the smell of a fox is good for the palsy to the tudors cures like this were rooted in perfectly reasonable ideas about the body and disease a living thing something that has been alive has and what's called an animus a living spirit and so if part of you is withered dying then it makes a perfect logical sense to use something from something that's been alive and restore the spirit to yourself cures incorporation the blood and bacteria-ridden guts of an animal stood a high chance of being fatal if applied to an open wound like this remedy for a sexually transmitted disease Nicholas Culpeper 1618 herbal has a remedy for the clap which is to kill a chicken and while it's still warm to dip your privy parts in it to soothe and calm but there was a basic problem with all the cures they were all based on a fundamental misunderstanding the trouble with all the recipes and cures in the home manuals is that their pre-scientific the tutors simply didn't know about the bacterial pathogens that cause infection and disease their theory of the body was of the four humors four key fluids that needed to be kept in balance to remain healthy disease was simply thought to be a result of an imbalance of the humours nowadays we know there's no scientific basis for that at all but if you've got a theory of disease that's simply wrong how can you cure it unfortunately for the Tudors they believed they were following sound medical advice these are scientific men leaders of the medical world writing these texts and the dangerous then they become effectively gospel the knowledge in the books would have been perceived as being at the cutting edge of medicine and the recipes endured for so long because really effective treatments from infectious disease were still hundreds of years away part of the problem was that no one had seen inside the body for centuries human dissection had been banned throughout the Middle Ages but in the 1540s Henry the Eighth allowed surgeons to use the bodies of those hanged at the gallows for their medical research detailed studies of human anatomy became widely available for the first time marking the beginnings of scientific inquiry into the body but they didn't come soon enough to help with our next problem I'm going upstairs into the bedroom to find our next hidden killer people are as promiscuous in the past as they are today it's certainly socially frowned upon and all the printed literature and all the religious literature and all the morality says you shouldn't do it but people still do it you've only got to look at the court cases and the legitimacy records and the bastardy bonds to see how many illegitimate children have been born as a result of unmarried sex children weren't the only consequences of such activities in 1497 a disease was recorded in the British Isles for the first time and it's routine seemed to be via the most intimate of acts in the most private place in the home the bedroom hospitals were being deluge with people suffering from a disease they'd never seen before William clothes the doctor in London noted that every other patient at his hospital had the same symptoms in the hospital of st. Bartholomew London among every 20 disease persons that were taken in ten of them had the pox William clothes produced a medical treatise describing the symptoms of the disease see he talks about it producing pains or aches ulcers nodes and foul scabs with corruption of the bones then he goes on here talks about venomous pustules scabs upon the forehead brows face and beard as about the secret parts it's cause he says was that it was a pestilent infection of filthy lust a sickness very listen odious troublesome and dangerous a notable testimony of the just wrath of God we now know that in fact these horrific symptoms were caused by a virulent bacteria Oh infection which we call syphilis while they may not have understood its bacterial origin the tutors knew enough to link its progress to sex the symptoms are very manifest and to a society that's obsessed with signs and symptoms it's very clear to them how this has come about the first stage gives the characteristic boils and marks on their sexual organs so it's seen as a result of sin of promiscuity many tudor towns had their bawdy house or brothel and these certainly aided the spread of the disease errant husbands carried the infection right back into the heart of the home as a poem of the time warms a woman that to a whoremonger is wedge is in a most desperate case she scarce dares perform her duty in bed with one of conditions so base for sometimes he's bitten with turnbull Street fleas the pox or some other infectious disease whatever the source of infection the association with illicit sex meant a sufferer was certain to become a social outcast they carried a terrible stigma if you had syphilis cos then you were seen as a sinner you were seen as a prostitute you were branded a syphilitic whore consequently the telltale signs of syphilis was sometimes cleverly disguised it was a real stigma to have damage to your nose because people knew immediately that you must have late stages of syphilis and so they even made wooden and metal false noses so that people could try and cover up the damage the syphilis had done here in the Museum of London's bio archaeology department there's further evidence of the impact of the disease on the city's population some of the treaties I've looked at from the 16th century talked about things like ulcers in the head and on the corners of the mouth and things like that do you ever come across something like that yeah we do we have an individual here that we can see from their skull that they are actually showing these lesions that were look we would identify as being associated with the venereal syphilis you can see here that's incredibly destructive and if you imagine this poor soul being alive and there's so much of it eaten away it's perfect it must have been absolutely horrendous because you've got those changes that we can then see obviously now in the dry bone but then you would have had that changes that would then be expressed in the soft tissues in the skin as saws we might see the infection affecting your eye which then can lead to blindness all also entered around and then you can destroy the soft tissues of that part of your face as well the burns show how sufferers could have lived with syphilis for decades the bacteria slowly eating away different parts of the body and with so many victims a lot of effort went into finding a remedy the problem was all too often the so-called cures could also finish you off this little volume by clothes is full of all sorts of remedies for dealing with syphilis page after page suggests different cures which indicates some water than none of them worked and after 40 or 50 pages of these various cures close identifies one more he says this is for the curation of the disease called the French pox and it's called Quicksilver that is mercury mercury had long been thought of as a useful treatment for skin conditions because it seemed to have a beneficial effect from around the 1300s it had been used to treat skin complaints so whether it was psoriasis or leprosy or any other sort of infection they would put mercury on it and so when they saw that people with syphilis were developing skin lesions they thought they would use the usual treatment for skin lesions which was mercury mercury can be administered in all manner of different ways a man's penis can be injected with mercury there is a sort of what you might think of as a bit of a adulterated Underpants which have been dipped in mercury you can put those on and that'll do it it may have had an effect locally on the area that was being treated but of course we know that the initial Shanker the first sign of syphilis would actually heal up and go on its own anyway within several weeks and so perhaps after several weeks of mercury treatment if the skin lesion had gone they would assume it was because of the mercury rather than the natural course of the disease some of the ways tutor doctors applied mercury to the body were ingenious I took one of the more complex recipes to a specialist laboratory to analyze its makeup Baxters cream was a blend of lard beeswax various herbs and elemental mercury we mix it together and surprisingly it actually formed a nice even suspension we expected to see globules of Elemental mercury but in fact it ended have been a nice silver cream which is shown here Wow in the final concentration contains 35% of Elemental mercury 35% yes so huge concentrations why didn't they just put mercury straight onto the skin you couldn't apply elemental mercury to the skin because it would just fall off so this was a method of putting mercury into a cream and then to actually put this on the skin to treat the lesions from the syphilis so this is actually very clever so they've made a way of making a cream so that actually mercury couldn't be absorbed into it and then rubbed into the skin yes and also tells us that they are able to make a cream which could be applied to the skin to give the same concentration of pure elemental manake vapour they knew what they were doing yes they did yeah it's been credible that they knew how to do that would have had an impact well elemental mercury doesn't actually diffuse through the skin very quickly about 1% of this cream would go through the skin but the main hazards are actually due to the inhalation that's why we can't take the mercury cream out of a sealed container it's lethal when we measure the concentration of mercury vapor coming from the cream it's off the scale at a body temperature around 34 to 37 degrees centigrade that would have released a gas phase concentration about 50 milligrams per meter cubed and the workroom air limits that we can tolerate today is point zero two so that's over two and a half thousand times more concentrated wow that's extraordinary so even if you weren't afflicted being in the room administering the treatment would have been hazardous mercury typically affects the nervous system and so it can cause pins and needles numbness in the hands and it can affect all of the nerves you could start to lose your sense of balance and not be able to tell exactly where you are in relation to the world but then once it starts to affect the rest of the nervous system it can get to the brain and it can cause dementia memory loss convulsions and then even death so while Judas showed great invention they were actually making the bedroom itself a deadly chemical trap filling it with poisonous vapors they reduce great doses of it so much so actually that that one daughter said that after examining the bone of someone who died of syphilis he could see Quicksilver quivering underneath it and amazingly even today historians can't agree on where syphilis came from there are a couple of theories one that Christopher Columbus brought syphilis back from the new world and that was the first time it had been introduced to Europe and that's why it suddenly appeared but another suggestion is that there was some mutation in the bacterium around that time it suddenly became much more virulent and destructive and caused this severe disease that suddenly appeared so nobody really knows there would be no effective cure for syphilis until centuries later with the advent of antibiotics to treat syphilis properly and all infection doctors first needed an accurate understanding of the body and a better theory of disease they needed equipment the first microscopes for example were developed in the last decade of the Tudor period without a doubt the Tudor century witnessed a revolution in the way people live their lives the changes that took place created the Tudor house we know today with its picturesque beams and fireplaces new technologies had transformed the fundamental nature of domestic life and had started to usher in the modern age as with any period of change who were dangerous some of which took centuries to expose and some of which are with us still their roots firmly located in the Tudor Age you you

22 Comments

  • Azalea Amethyst

    April 13, 2019

    Oh, wow, British people actually pronounce the h in herbs. In America we don’t.

    Reply
  • Ducaso

    April 13, 2019

    Fantastic documentary and a fantastic narrator.

    Reply
  • ace lopez

    April 13, 2019

    Death by escaped bear. ?

    Reply
  • theNobleTaco

    April 13, 2019

    Let's be fair, pretty much everything could kill you back then.

    Reply
  • a4yster

    April 13, 2019

    Ok, escaped bear – any time of the day. But crushed testicles! No man deserves such an end!

    Reply
  • rosetta grey

    April 13, 2019

    I know this is the stupidest thing to get fixated on but her shoes are far too big for her and I can't unsee it.

    Reply
  • Ima Karimah

    April 13, 2019

    So that's why we still eat golden flakes now

    Reply
  • Karen Fuller

    April 13, 2019

    This is a fascinating and excellent documentary!

    Reply
  • Willie The boggle

    April 13, 2019

    Killer of the modern home, formaldehyde.

    Reply
  • EthanF44

    April 13, 2019

    HOW TO DIE:
    1. Get time machine
    2. Go to Tudor era
    3. Do ANYTHING.
    4. rip in f

    Reply
  • Mark Hansen

    April 13, 2019

    58 min 45 seconds of Darwinism…

    Reply
  • Steve Jablonski

    April 13, 2019

    "Death from crushed testicles from playing a game at Christmas time!?" I am 52 years old and have never heard those words spoken before. I understand that the protective cup and jock strap hadn't been invented yet but the real question is "What games were they playing?"

    Reply
  • Juliet Agre

    April 13, 2019

    She forgot to separate her curls

    Reply
  • dondroc1

    April 13, 2019

    That"s the prettiest girl in the whole wide world!

    Reply
  • SilentC0sm0s

    April 13, 2019

    From cave to egyptians people seem more intelligent than tudors o.o weird

    Reply
  • Epiphany Paige

    April 13, 2019

    im so glad they used a mercury substitute… i got so worried when i saw what looked like Actual Mercury touching someone's HAND!! thats so toxic!!!

    Reply
  • Patrick Baptist

    April 13, 2019

    Ads every 3mins, how retarded. Downloading it to finish watching, thumbs down.

    Reply
  • Glamorous Blonde

    April 13, 2019

    Could this lady be anymore beautiful?!? Her voice is incredible and her hair is so gorgeous. I could watch her documentaries all day. Excellent work. ??

    Reply
  • meowsaidthecat

    April 13, 2019

    Well, the increase of dentition problems in the 16th century CAN be true, but based on my experience with a forensic anthropology course on a population from a Dutch13th century monastery – a lot of the skulls had caries, inflammations, periodontitis. We proposed they had eaten sweet fruits like figs. Also, as archaeologists we also see an increase of (dental) illness with the onset of agriculture, i.e. moving from hunter gathering to sedentary life, so 5000-3000 BC depending where you are.

    Reply
  • Pandora Popstar

    April 13, 2019

    I loved this, but her shoe falling off while she was walking is giving me anxiety.

    Reply
  • Denise Gore

    April 13, 2019

    This should not be watched while eating your dinner.

    Reply
  • Just Me-Allen

    April 13, 2019

    Here in the called "new world" people agree that Christopher Columbus and hos flock of criminals brought diseases to the healthy natives.

    Reply

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