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zahra
04-21-2010, 04:04 PM
Re-working a script for TV, and I need some deaths that were common to the rural folk in the 1700s. I've used childbirth, hanging, stake-burning, drownings, being trampled by a horse - does anyone know where I can find a documentation of nasty deaths around that time? (Or earlier, I'm not locked in, yet). I'm not sure I want to go with poxes, btw.

I've trawled the net with no luck. I need a site, please, or any knowledge you might have.

Thanks so much.

stitchingirl
04-21-2010, 04:17 PM
I know that my school doesn't consider it reliable, but I found this on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerperal_fever

http://www.theexaminingroom.com/2009/08/smallpox-in-1700s-boston-compared-with-todays-swine-flu/

http://everything2.com/title/London+Causes+of+Death+in+1700

The last one is for London, England. But it might give you ideas, you know?

Hope this helps. :)

the addster
04-21-2010, 05:28 PM
I did some research on this a few years back, as I remember "illness of the gut" was big. That could anything from food poisoning (very common) to cancers. Also gangrene, which while not terribly exciting, was nasty and common, could come from any injury.

DeleyanLee
04-21-2010, 05:31 PM
Farming accidents still claim a significant amount of lives. Getting cut with a slythe comes to mind. Falling.

Flu was a big killer until modern times too.

Don't forget animal attacks.

Of course, depending on the attitude of the community "stupid" could be a cause of death. ;)

Chris P
04-21-2010, 05:34 PM
The #1 cause of death of frontier women was their dresses catching fire (oops! Not true; see posts below). They wore long dresses and cooked in a fireplace, with a lot of reaching over the fire and embers rolling out.

I'm sure food poisoning was also very common, as was heat exhaustion for men working in the fields.

johnnysannie
04-21-2010, 05:48 PM
If you can get your hands on a copy (some are available on CD ROM) of early pioneer histories for a particular region or area, they often have a chapter or section devoted to deaths and accidents.

I have several of these and in the one I have for the county where I currently live, there are deaths by snakebite, fire, drowning, murder, accidents involving runaway horses, a child trampled to death in the street by a runaway horse team, poisonings, attacks by wild animals, falls, ....about anything you can imagine.

Kalyke
04-21-2010, 05:50 PM
Cholera and other toxic food and polluted water situations.
Alcohol-- lots more people, including children were alcoholics.
Trichinosis and other animal or meat born parasites.
Diarrhea or dysentery took a fair share of people.
Dyspepsia.
Murder-- a lot more people got away with it.
Anything that we consider medical -- broken legs, appendicitis, infection of a wound. Gall bladder problems.
Child birth.
Malnutrition. having only corn meal to eat will kill you. Rabbit sickness--eating only ultra lean meat will kill you in about 2 weeks.
Poverty.
Anthrax is my favorite. It was caused by old shaving brushes.
Bug and snake bites (black widow, brown recluse, and lots of snakes, red legged centipede).
Rabies.

Poisoning from the work you do: including Mercury poisoning from Hat making (the mad hatter), phosphorous poisoning from match making, Black Lung disease, marble and fine dust--Silicosis.

Mercury was in everything. Cosmetics. Many dinner wear items were made of Pewter which has mercury in it.

Going to bed with a candle still lit.

DeleyanLee
04-21-2010, 05:55 PM
Arsenic was a mainstay in drugs and many cosmetics, IIRC. Slow arsenic poisoning was fairly rampant.

GeorgeK
04-21-2010, 06:03 PM
I doubt it was that common. It's not like they wore polyester. Childhood illnesses that we get vaccinations for were killers, especially whooping cough. Still the most common cause of death is dehydration from the flu.


The #1 cause of death of frontier women was their dresses catching fire. They wore long dresses and cooked in a fireplace, with a lot of reaching over the fire and embers rolling out.

I'm sure food poisoning was also very common, as was heat exhaustion for men working in the fields.

johnnysannie
04-21-2010, 06:12 PM
GeorgeK is correct - although women catching on fire from long dresses did occur, it was most uncommon.

From an article found on Colonial Williamsburg called "Stuff And Nonsense: Myths That Should By Now Be History:



http://www.history.org/Foundation/journal/Winter08/stuff.cfm

BURNING TO DEATH FROM THEIR LONG PETTICOATS’ CATCHING FIRE WAS THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH FOR COLONIAL-ERA WOMEN, AFTER CHILDBIRTH
Historians who have studied death records have determined that the leading cause of death for colonial men and women was disease. Childbirth took a shocking toll on women by today’s standards, and an unfortunate few probably did die when their clothing caught fire. The “death by petticoat” myth, however, is an exaggeration. Curator Alden O’Brien says that “the horrific nature of the accident may have made the rare
incidents more famous and memorable, making them stick in people’s minds and seeming more common.”

Chris P
04-21-2010, 06:17 PM
George K and Johnnysannie: Well spotted! I was quoting a tour guide at a farm museum.

It seems he (and therefore I) were wrong: http://historiccamdencounty.com/ccnews21.shtml

Don Allen
04-21-2010, 06:54 PM
I don't think I seen Tuberculosis mentioned, horrible way to die, but one of the more insidious deaths of the time was diabetes, because it was often considered a malady of the soul and brain hence many we're confined to institutions which weren't much better than the german death camps of WWII.

Also an intriguing form of death was the small injury treated by the surgeons of the time. It was said, that a good doctor could be spotted by the amount of blood and debris on his work coat, (true) unfortunately many patients who may have survived if left untreated by these practitioners died of infectious diseases caused by the doctors unsanitary conditions.

Actually I have one cause of death for you that is was very painful in those times yet not widely reported, because many afflicted actually lived and tolerated the disease, which was GOUT.

I suffer the malady myself, which is an overproduction of uric acid in the kidneys which forms tiny little crystals which invade the joints and cause searing pain of which you would literally beg for death at an acute outbreak... The fascinating thing about Gout back in the 16th and 17th century was that everyone drank from lead or pewter cups. Historical doctors have surmised that it was in fact the lead from these cups which played a huge roll in the onset of acute gout as much, if not more than the diet of the times.

The thing is, gout wouldn't kill you by itself, but a huge concentration of uric acid in the kidneys would cause sever damage and shut them down. So imagine having your joints on fire, not being able to piss, and a back ache like never before... Thank you, I'll take death for 100....

DeleyanLee
04-21-2010, 06:58 PM
I do believe that tuberculosis (TB) was often referred to as "consumption" in days gone by.

Priene
04-21-2010, 07:03 PM
Measles. My gg-grandparents lost two children in twelve days to it.

Chris P
04-21-2010, 07:04 PM
unfortunately many patients who may have survived if left untreated by these practitioners died of infectious diseases caused by the doctors unsanitary conditions.


President Garfield would have lived if the doc's hadn't tried to help him.

Don Allen
04-21-2010, 07:20 PM
President Garfield would have lived if the doc's hadn't tried to help him.


I'm not 100% sure, but I think G. Washington was damn near bled to death in addition to suffering the goiter. Yeah, if you were sick or injured and seen these bastards coming your way, time was up...

waylander
04-21-2010, 08:15 PM
I do believe that tuberculosis (TB) was often referred to as "consumption" in days gone by.

Indeed so. My father-in-law lost both parents and a sister in 2 years to TB back in the 40s.

DeleyanLee
04-21-2010, 08:24 PM
It's still a big enough scare that all of us who work in a hospital setting have to get annual testing for it, regardless of how much patient contact we have (I have .05% patient contact--I pass them in the halls, that's it).

johnnysannie
04-21-2010, 10:37 PM
TB is consumption, yes. Measles, mumps, smallpox, yellow fever, malaria, scarlet fever, whooping cough, typhoid, typhus, diptheria, influenza, pneumonia, and any infectious disease.

I just finished writing a novel set in 1905 and at that time, pneumonia was still one of the top causes of death in the US.

It should be pretty simple to find a suitable cause of death for any character.

dirtsider
04-21-2010, 10:40 PM
George K and Johnnysannie: Well spotted! I was quoting a tour guide at a farm museum.

It seems he (and therefore I) were wrong: http://historiccamdencounty.com/ccnews21.shtml

This is true - I've done open hearth cooking and know Clarissa. (Wonderful woman and very knowledgeable.) She has a lot of hands on experience in hearth cooking as well as other historical stuff.

First of all, they wouldn't be cooking directly over the fire. They'd start a fire in one section of the hearth then scrape the coals/embers to another section and put the pots/spiders over that. Also, since the women of the time were used to wearing the long skirts, they were more aware of where the hems were and would hitch them up and out of the way. Plus, they were also very used to the fire cooking so they knew what they were doing. It's like cooking over a stove today - a little common sense and you're ok. Besides, fire gives off heat which is a wonderful warning system. lol

Speaking of which, fire itself was a cause of death, either by not banking a fire properly for the night or knocking over a candle for whatever reason.

Falls and traveling at night when vision was impaired due to the darkness.

eurodan49
04-21-2010, 11:06 PM
Well, the Titanic, Little Boy and Fat Man, Pan-Am 103…. OH, 1700s? I guess war, both battle and collateral, should be number one (wound infection, starvation, plagues). Inadequate diets and malnutrition weakened the body and lots of diseases which are easily treated these days were terminal during the 18th century. Without antibiotics even a minor cold could become life threatening. Drowning, as in the 1700s lots of people didn’t swim. Hunting accidents, duels, drunken fights, highway robbers, the list is endless.

Tsu Dho Nimh
04-22-2010, 02:01 AM
"summer flux" (diarrhea) killed many children under the age of 3
"blood poisoning" ... infected wounds
"apoplexy" ... either a stroke or cardiac arrest
head injuries - fell, falling object, kicked in head by cow while milking
Hit by tree while logging
Drowning
Assaults, barroom brawls, muggings

zahra
04-22-2010, 10:03 PM
Wow, thanks to all who answered. Lots of scope. I'm looking for very visual deaths, so like the farm accidents a lot. This is set in the UK countryside, so unfortunately, no black widow spiders, but I can get some adder bites in, and dog attack would be lovely.

This is a horror supernatural where people fall victim to deaths that occured in a village that they're unfortunate enough to visit on a specific day. The deaths will occur when the protags are back in their daily lives, one by one, so I can't have anything too readily curable. Maybe one of those diseases so lost in history that they don't diagnose until it's too late. I think I WILL resurrect the plague, yay!

Thanks again, all, you've been great.

Becky Black
04-23-2010, 02:21 PM
Don't get too carried away with the adder bites. Even before anti-venom treatments, an adder bite wouldn't generally kill a healthy adult. They wouldn't exactly enjoy it, but it's not likely to kill them. Children, old people, someone with a weak heart or generally sickly already would be more likely for that scenario.

Fire would be good. House made of wood and thatch. No fire brigade to come put you out. Whoosh!

If you do go back earlier than the 1700s there were still wolves in England into the 1400s and even into the 1600s maybe even 1700s in Scotland. They didn't commonly attack people, just livestock. But if there's something supernatural going on then you could get away with it.

johnnysannie
04-23-2010, 10:51 PM
Wow, thanks to all who answered. Lots of scope. I'm looking for very visual deaths, so like the farm accidents a lot. This is set in the UK countryside, so unfortunately, no black widow spiders, but I can get some adder bites in, and dog attack would be lovely.

This is a horror supernatural where people fall victim to deaths that occured in a village that they're unfortunate enough to visit on a specific day. The deaths will occur when the protags are back in their daily lives, one by one, so I can't have anything too readily curable. Maybe one of those diseases so lost in history that they don't diagnose until it's too late. I think I WILL resurrect the plague, yay!

Thanks again, all, you've been great.

Just a stray thought here but since smallpox was eradicated back in the
1970's worldwide and in most of the western hemisphere much earlier, smallpox in early stages would not be familiar to most medical professionals today.....

Or cholera, very contagious but the symptoms can be so similar to everything from food poisioning on up!

DeleyanLee
04-23-2010, 11:01 PM
If you do go back earlier than the 1700s there were still wolves in England into the 1400s and even into the 1600s maybe even 1700s in Scotland. They didn't commonly attack people, just livestock. But if there's something supernatural going on then you could get away with it.

I was just thinking of boar as well. Very dangerous critters. I'm not sure about the UK, but there were plenty of them in the US into the mid 1800's in some regions.

waylander
04-23-2010, 11:52 PM
We have wild boar again thanks to the animal rights activists who released them a few years ago

Soccer Mom
04-24-2010, 12:07 AM
Cholera is nice because it's caused by tainted water. So you can give it to a large number of people in a single dose. And anyone that you don't want to have it simply didn't drink the water.

tirial
04-24-2010, 05:36 PM
The adder bites themselves may not be a threat to a healthy adult, but blood poisoning or infection in the wound might be.

There's also pneumonia (the old man's friend), once a common killer and still sometimes fatal today because it's so easily underestimated. It's not particularly graphic though.

zahra
04-25-2010, 01:56 AM
Thanks again. I think I want to start with a nice disease that should not be around in this day and age in the UK, which leads characters to think that there must be something to this curse thing. Lots of great answers, thank you.

Tsu Dho Nimh
04-26-2010, 02:58 AM
This is a horror supernatural where people fall victim to deaths that occured in a village that they're unfortunate enough to visit on a specific day. The deaths will occur when the protags are back in their daily lives, one by one, so I can't have anything too readily curable. Maybe one of those diseases so lost in history that they don't diagnose until it's too late. I think I WILL resurrect the plague, yay!

OH ... so the death is a sort of time travel?

Definitely bring back the plague and smallpox if you want the medical staff to freak out.

Anthrax too.

Medievalist
04-26-2010, 03:07 AM
tetanus

Becky Black
04-26-2010, 12:55 PM
The adder bites themselves may not be a threat to a healthy adult, but blood poisoning or infection in the wound might be.

True. I sometimes wonder how people managed to survive till sundown in the days before antibiotics.

Becky Black
04-26-2010, 01:16 PM
Thanks again. I think I want to start with a nice disease that should not be around in this day and age in the UK, which leads characters to think that there must be something to this curse thing. Lots of great answers, thank you.

Ooh, rabies! Last case of rabies actually acquired here through normal means was in 1902. The UK is designated rabies free and we use strict quarantine rules to keep it that way. But obviously it existed here in the past.

Since it's 100% lethal* and horribly so if the vaccine isn't given soon enough, and it would freak out the docs to see people with it who haven't say been abroad where they might have caught it, it could definitely be a good one.

Personally it's one that really freaks me out, I saw a TV drama about rabies getting into the UK when I was a kid and have always since carried the idea that this would lead to the end of civilisation as we know it. And they used to have pretty scary posters about it too, reminding people not to smuggle animals in. They had skulls on. Thanks to all that I pretty much put people who smuggle animals into the UK in the same category as child sex offenders and muggers who target the elderly.

*Okay, I know, there have been a couple of cases of non-vaccinated people surviving now, but with a very specific and experimental medical protocol that has only worked a couple of times. Basically, without the vaccine, you're like 99.99999% definitely going to die once you display symptoms.