chapter  14
16 Pages


IN the Middle Ages men were threatened by dangers of which we, happily, have no experience. Bubo-plague, like the Black Death, and other pestilences frequently attacked them: there were five great epidemics, besides some smaller ones, in the second half of the fourteenth century, and many outbreaks of plague in the course of the fifteenth. It did not always, especially during the last forty years of the period, spread over the whole country at once, but showed itself in different localities at different times, and the towns suffered more than the rural districts. It very often " reigned " in London: in 1433, 1444, 1449, 1467-8, and 1474, Parliament was prorogued on account of it. In 1408 it was so bad that the Court of Rusting was closed, and in 1434 and 1487 the Justices of the Court of Common Pleas were obliged to suspend their sittings. The Chroniclers record large numbers of deaths-thirty thousand persons died in London in 1407, according to the St. Alban's annalist. In private letters we also find dismal accounts of the plague and of the terror it inspired-"we lewyn in fer," writes Margaret Paston, in 1471, " but we wut not qweder to fie, for to be better than we

ben here." Eight years later, her son declares" pepyll dyeth Bore in Norwyche" ... and -" at Sweynsthorpe . . . they have dyed, and ben syke nye in every house of the towne." It would, of course, be unwise to take these estimates literally, but it is obvious that the mortality was great. In 1485, a new and terrible disease, called from one of its most noticeable symptoms the Sweating Sickness, made its appearance, and Dr. Creighton believes that it was brought over to England from Normandy, by the soldiers who helped Henry VII to win his crown. It was very virulent, and carried off large numbers of the upper classes.