Thursday 22 August 2013

Sweating sickness - an ancient epidemic

On this day.........528 years ago, the Wars of the Roses ended at the Battle of Bosworth Field, and the victorious army of Henry VII carried the ‘sweating sickness’ with it to London.
The illness, perhaps what we later came to call influenza, would carry off three lord mayors in as many months. Altogether a ‘wonderful number’ of people died, and there were five more epidemics over the next 70 years.
During the 1517 outbreak, there was much comment about the suddenness with which the disease could strike, as people collapsed in the street and were with their maker four hours later, or, as one contemporary put it: they could be ‘merry at dinner and dead at supper’.  In Oxford, 400 people perished in a week.
In 1528, Anne Boleyn caught the disease, and desperately in love with her though he was, Henry VIII packed her off to her home in Kent, where she survived, but her brother-in-law died.  For the full story, see A Disastrous History of Britain.

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