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History

Renaissance public health

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Rats, lice and fleas were a part of people's everyday lives in Early Modern times, so the need for public health measures was great - but it took the plague of 1665 to get the authorities moving.

Summary

Early Modern towns were similar to Medieval towns. They did not have systems of sewers or water pipes. They were probably filthy. Garbage and human waste was thrown into the streets.

Houses were made of wood, mud and horsedung. Rats, lice and fleas flourished in the rushes that people strewed on the clay floors of their houses. In 1524 the Renaissance writer Erasmus gave a description of English houses, which he described as having floors covered with rushes, which were renewed only infrequently, and were full of "...spittle and vomit and urine of dogs and men, beer that has been thrown out, remnants of fishes and filth unnameable."

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Back to Medieval and Renaissance medicine index

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