I love reading about medical history and even minored in it when I was in nursing school.
Our current healthcare system may be a broken mess, but at least physicians and quasi-physicians aren’t still bloodletting and applying leeches (wait, haha yes we actually still use medical-grade leeches for a few things!).
I spent a couple hours browsing through the records. Some complaints seemed easy to recognize, such as:
- Night terrors My Godson Richard Sharpe, 6 years a next Whitsuntide, born on a Monday about sun rising the Monday 3 weeks after Whitsuntide. Much troubled about 8 at night in his first sleep[*] & will rise out of his bed & cry ‘O God, O God’ & stare & run about.
- Concussion Master George Bicklye fellow of Magdalen College in Cambridge, 26 years. March 27. Thursday 6 January 1631, 5.40 pm. Had a fall against a door & did hurt his forehead & it did swell much & now is abated but a singing in his ears with trembling & starting & giddiness in his head.
- Infertility Mary Goddard the daughter of Andrew Clark & Joan. She dwells at Westminster in Gardeners Lane, 28 years the Thursday before Christmas next. She has been married two years. The wife of John Goddard, pinner. Question whether she shall have any children or no. & when. & what is the cause, she has none. & whether the fault be in her or her husband. It is overmuch dryness of her matrix [uterus] is the cause. She has no children for she has not her courses [periods] well & her husband is dry also.
- Domestic violence Mistress Pedder of Potters Perry, 39 years last St. Lawrence’s day. Wednesday 10 August 1580, 11.30 am. 12 years married, our Lady Day’s eve three weeks before Michaelmas married. Her husband abuses her. Rails on her, calls her whore bitch & beats her & swears that she is nought[y] & says he is bewitched.
- Unplanned pregnancy Mrs Nameless beyond Bedfordshire, 30 years. Unmarried. Friday 21 April 1626, 7.30 am. She took diverse things to cause abortion of diverse means but none would do. I gave her nothing. Was in love with one. Is by child with him & he is fled to Ireland & she leaving Dunstable goes into Bedfo[rd].
Others not so much:
- Thomas Leades an old man that dwells in Stonystratford & sells aquavitæ [whiskey]. Monday 10 December 1599, 11.00 am. Lies at his heart pit ever since Saturday night & is as a thing that heaves & sucks on him & makes him that he cannot rest day nor night & would be ripped alive if I would counsel him therunto. Looks very pale & consumed. Haunted or bewitched.
- Mistress Turney of Layton, 51 years. Friday 10 August 1628, 7.30 am, 7.45am. Melancholy & much tormented with griping pain in her belly. Can find no help having tried many. Always costive [constipated]. Tormented 16 weeks with griping wind tormenting her day & night as one haunted. Has taken physic of Doctor Gifford & Doctor Wilson & Doctor Martin & Mister Wallis. & had by all of their consents clysters [enemas] & ointment yet feels no use. Is of late grown very cold. Of a melancholy disposition. Apt to vomit continually & yet brings up nothing but phlegm. Yet hearty after fits. Has taken the leeches.
- Jane Broughe of Stonystratford, 52 years. Saturday 13 October 1604, 9.15 am. mad frantic. Extreme sick. Sent afterward to be let blood. Taken with a hot burning ague ever since Tuesday. Head ill & giddy feels as it were a noise in her ears. Casts up everything she takes. If she takes any conserves they broil in her stomach & she is worst after it. Talks idly. Head very light. Urine not high coloured.
It’s amusing that these old notes are not that much different from physician notes today. Yes, the language and spelling are more standardized, and everything is digital, but doctors are still interested in a patient’s age, past medical history, social and economic status, and bowel and bladder function. (Sooo many of the entries hinted at constipation and treatment with enemas and laxitives!)
These particular physicians trained in the use of astrology to help diagnose and treat their patients. And apparently they handed out a little fortune telling as well 🙂
Jean Wintch of 25 years, born under 52 latitude 19 longitude, Saturday the 30 January 1574 at 2.00 pm. Asks on Monday 11 June 1599, 2.00 pm quid sibi accid in futuro &c. [what will happen to her in the future etc.] She may have two children but they will die & not live long. It seems she shall conceive 4 times. The 1 a man child and the 2 a man child, the 3 a man child, the 4 a man child. But they will hardly live or come to good and if any of them come to good they shall hate their father and have much strife with him yet they shall be gentle and mild in words but much envied of base people and evil in deeds.
And she shall have much strife care and sorrow about her children. And the children shall die young. If they live they shall be evil & yet carry a fair face.
She shall meddle with base persons which shall prove her enemies & she shall have much trouble about them and she shall be wretched and have much care in the end of her life and her enemies shall prevail against her.
She shall hurt her husband.
Yikes. Did she not pay her bill or something?
* What’s “first sleep?” Read my post about First sleep, second sleep.
Interested in learning more about medical history? These are some excellent (and entertaining) books: