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The Spanish Armada - Aristotle's Midwife's Vademecum

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 27 November 2007

The Spanish Armada
Making History listener Ian Barrett got in touch to question the received story of England’s fight with the Spanish Armada. Not least because of the death rate amongst the sailors who fought and how they were neglected when the Spanish fleet had been defeated.

Lord Howard writing to William Cecil in August 1588; " ... It is a most pitiful sight to see, here at Margate, how the men, having no place to receive them into here, die in the streets. I am driven myself, of force, to come a-land, to see them bestowed in some lodging; and the best I can get is barns and outhouses. It would grieve any man's heart to see them that have served so valiantly to die so miserably...".

Professor Pauline Croft at Royal Holloway, University of London directly answered Ian’s question. Despite the work of Howard and Drake in ensuring that ships were clean and sailors looked after, only half of the casualties were a direct result of combat. However, this was the same in any conflict right up until the nineteenth century, particularly one where men were at sea and away from fresh food for weeks at a time.

Aristotle's Midwife's Vademecum
Making History listener Rowena Rowling has a copy of this small book which appears to borrow from the work of Aristotle in its advice for midwives in the nineteenth century. However it was probably a so-called 'reproduction'. Many 19th century manuals claimed to have found lost knowledge, adding to our
knowledge of classical texts. Lots were printed in the 19th century for a quick profit. They were very popular in America and this led to them being criticised as being pornographic.



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