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Sex & Syphilis: How The Tudors Dealt With Rampant Sexually Transmitted Diseases | Timeline

[Music] people are as promiscuous in the past as they are today it’s certainly socially frowned upon and all the printed literature and all the religious literature and all the morality says you shouldn’t do it but people still do it you’ve only got to look at the court cases and the legitimacy records and the bastardy bonds to see how many illegitimate children are being born as a result of unmarried sex children weren’t the only consequences of such activities in 1497 a disease was recorded in the British Isles for the first time and it’s routine seemed to be via the most intimate of acts in the most private place in the home the bedroom hospitals were being deluge with people suffering from a disease they’d never seen before William clothes the doctor in London noted that every other patient at his hospital had the same symptoms in the hospital of st. Bartholomew London among every 20 disease persons that were taken in ten of them had the pox William clothes produced a medical treatise describing the symptoms of the disease see he talks about it producing pains or aches ulcers nodes and foul scabs with corruption of the bones then he goes on here it talks about venomous pustules scabs upon the forehead brows face and beard as about the secret parts it’s cause he says was that it was a pestilent infection of filthy lust a sickness very listen odious troublesome and dangerous a notable testimony of the just wrath of God we now know that in fact these horrific symptoms were caused by a virulent bacterial infection which we call syphilis while they may not have understood its bacterial origin the tudors knew enough to link its progress to sex the symptoms are very manifest and to a society that’s obsessed with signs and symptoms it’s very clear to them how this has come about the first stage gives the characteristic boils and marks on their sexual organs so it’s seen as a result of sin of promiscuity many tudor towns had their bawdy house or brothel and these certainly aided the spread of the disease [Music] errant husbands carried the infection right back into the heart of the home as a poem of the time warms a woman that to a whoremonger is wed is in a most desperate case she scarce tears perform her duty in bed with one of conditions so base for sometimes he’s bitten with turnbull street flees the pox or some other infectious disease whatever the source of infection the association with illicit sex meant a sufferer was certain to become a social outcast they carried a terrible stigma if you had the syphilis cos then you were seen as a sinner you were seen as a prostitute you were branded a syphilitic [ __ ] consequently the telltale signs of syphilis was sometimes cleverly disguised it was a real stigma to have damage to your nose because people knew immediately that you must have late stages of syphilis and so they even made wooden and metal false noses so that people could try and cover up the damage that syphilis had done here in the Museum of London’s bio archaeology department there’s further evidence of the impact of the disease on the city’s population some of the treaties I’ve looked at from the 16th century talked about things like ulcers in the head and on the corners of the mouth and things like that do you ever come across anything like that yeah we do we have an individual here that we can see from their skull that they are actually showing these lesions that were look we would identify as being associated with the venereal syphilis you can see here that’s incredibly destructive and if you imagine this poor soul being alive there’s so much of it eaten away it’s horrific it must have been utterly horrendous because you’ve got those changes that we can then see obviously now in the dry bone but then you would have had the changes that would then be expressed in the soft tissues in the skin as sores you might see the infection affecting your eye which then can lead to blindness all also dented around area and then you can destroy the soft tissues of that part of your face as well the burns show how sufferers could have lived with syphilis for decades the bacteria slowly eating away different parts of the body you
Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWtpXZqscFk

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