Obscure Deaths

London 1665. The plague rages through the city, virulent and killing indiscriminately.

However, among  the reported 68,596 deaths from the plague were a large amount of more unusual causes of death as recorded by the parish clerks. Many of these sound rather gruesome whilst some just sound plain unfortunate.

For example:

One man was killed by a fall down the stairs at St Thomas Apostle Church. Whilst another was found dead in the street at St Bartholomew the Less.

5 were “distracted” – by what we’ll never know.

23 were “frighted” – frightened to death, presumably shock causing a heart attack.

397 (probably mostly children) succumbed to “Rising of the Lights” – The lungs were lighter in weight than the other organs and were often known as your “lights”. A cough which sounded like you might cough them up was referred to as rising of the lights. We now call this disease croup.

34 died of “Rupture” of what is not made clear.

6 lost their lives because of “Plannet” – Medical men at the time believed that the alignments of the planets had a significant effect on one’s health. Those who had been affected adversely by some astronomical misfortune were said to be planet-struck. In fact they were more likely to have suffered a stroke or heart attack.

And lastly 46 were “Kild by severall Accidents” – this just seems unfair!


Data from Bills of Mortality 1665 extracted in Brend, W. A. (1908) Bills of Mortality.  Transactions of the Medico-Legal Society.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s