Would you have survived in the middle ages?

  By Shamus   Jul 17, 2007   430 comments

Last weekend one of my gaming buddies and I were talking about surgery. I have surgery coming up this weekend and we were comparing notes. One thing we both realized was that both of us would have died before we were six if not for modern medicine. He had his appendix out at five. My life more or less depends on medication to keep my asthma under control. I’ve had several life-saving trips to the hospital due to severe attacks in my lifetime.

I’ve mused on this sort of thing before, but since we were about to play D&D in a fantasy setting my mind was on it again. In the medieval times people got married at ages that would scandalize us today. They began having sex at a young age, and continued to do so without birth control for their entire lives. Women cranked out babies at an alarming pace, yet the population remained flat. Run those numbers in your head and it becomes clear that people who lived to adulthood where a small minority of the total number of people born. Their lives were bleak, harsh, and filled with death. They died of things that are trivial to fix today.

I wouldn’t have made it. Asthma would have killed me. If that didn’t get me, the infection I had at 20 would have done the job.

My dad would have died six months before I was born.

My mother would have died a few years after I was born.

My friend wouldn’t have made it. He would have died of a burst appendix at five.

I think my brothers and my sister would have made it. (Ignoring the fact that two of them were born after my mother would have died.)

How about you? How long would you have lived in the middle ages? Ignore all the general risks – like typhoid or the plague or cholera – that everyone would have faced in general. Let’s assume you were lucky and missed those. (Unless by some chance you actually DID face one of them in your life.) Also ignore the fact that your deadly injury might have been caused by modern technology, like an auto accident. Just pretend you were trampled by a horse or something. So, given the injuries and illness you’ve faced in your life so far: Did you make it? Would you have survived to your current age?

I don’t want to go on the cart!
I don’t want to go on the cart!

I’m curious to see the responses on this one. If you like, post your results to your blog (I’ll link back) and pose the same question to your readers. If you don’t have a blog you could always use the comment gizmo below. I hear it works pretty good.

(ADDITIONAL: To answer goblinpaladin’s question below, yes. Let’s assume we didn’t die in a flood, or a famine, or get worked to death, or die in a war, or anything else like that. Let’s just go with what’s happened to us in our modern lives. For a lot of us, even that is enough to kill us.)

The tally so far:

On The Cart Pulling The Cart
Shamus Young
Oscagne
ms_danson
e_scapism101
Steven Den Beste
Webs
Nick
Bogan
Winged Ignorance
Ingvar
Remus
BriScan
Sir Sefirot
RedHillian
goblinpaladin
Jag Dell
talorina
JohnW
Rollie
Erik
Galenor
Delta Force Leader
SimeSublime
Deathblade_penguin
Gus
Mari
arlani
Otus
Mik
VikingMonkey
Rupert
Gary
Michael L
Rich
Dan
Ariel
Eltanin
guy
Tom Gunn
Joel
Gary
Cradok
BlueFaeMoon
Doug Brown
Anonymous Botch
Kalle
MintSkittle
Downtym
Tarous Zars
Rob
Jacob
AJ
Space Bumby
DavidS
Mr. Blue
Ysabel
Allura
David H.
JasonS
Katy
Poet
Shadow Wolf
Arson55
Jimmy
Don
wumpus
Browncoat
milw770
ZackTheSTGuy
Doug Sundseth
SiliconScout
Al Billings
lplimac
Dangerous_Jade
SteeleButterfly
chuko
Ken Talton
dreamfarer
Refugee
Joe M
Corsair (Don’t be such a baby!)
Rhea
Kevin
Kurt
MONKEEYYY
xbolt
Devin
Mrs T
DoveArrow
coz
beckyzoole
Brett
Matt`
Siobharek
trigear
SteveDJ
jpetoh
stevend
AnnMCN
Smyth
J Greely
unseelie_sidhe
M Hamann
Nothing
Davemonkey
Chris
Ralff
Attorney At Chaos
Yonder
Sion
Jewbacca
Lanthanide
Rixaxun
phobiandarkmoon
veloxyll
luagha
Woerlan
Raved Thrad
Chrystalline
Sem
Justin Alexander
Kajen
Ravs
Mark Caliber
the_corruptor
Clint Memo
AdaMM
Zaxares
Antendren
Roses
Jon
Contagion
Mrs. Who
KMC
Mandi
corwin
txknight
indikate
Matt J
Knastymike
Robin Z
out_totheblack
Spider
Jimmie
Telophase
Melfina the Blue
Rev.Dr.Blacky Thanatos Roach
NRD80Y
Alden
Jennifer Snow
phlux
Robyrt
Anh Minh
Arthur
Christopher
Locri
gomi no sensei (Pulling with gusto!)
Hanov3r
Marmot
Redguy
Katy
Nathan M.
Michael McHenry
Ryan
-Chipper
Zak
Falafel
Jeremiah
Jessie
TwiddleStooch
Martin
Kevin
Amanda
Nilus
Lars
Matt P
Segev Stormlord
Janneh
Joe
leopardeternal
quadir
SongCoyote
Althanis
Alex
Dan Morrison
Skeeve the Impossible
Alexis
BlackJaw
Dev Null
Maia
Vykromod
Guy
Karen
John
Myxx
Deoxy
Cenobite
Cadamar
dishuiguanyin
Nanja Kang
Osvaldo Mandias
Jack of Spades
Coyote
Gobo
icekatze
brian
Kristin
Gothmog
Dave
Mark
TooMad
PurpleStarfish
ravenkith
Sewerman
Mysterium
rou
Otters34
Sauron
Jeremy Bowers
ohnoabear
Water_Singer
CJG
melchar
Seracka
Anna
capitain
Petrushka
Julia
Dave Klecha
andy
Clarifon
rogue_stupidity
kdorian
Pilomotor
Glumly
lynnylchan
wildweasel
Pixy Misa
jdhays
Dix
Rick
Ben
Masakados
Purple Library Guy
Daebereth
Zaghadka
Nefke
James
Hito
Traiden
Tolmar
dragonbane
Brian
kat
Paul Arthur
Pffh
Danzaemon

A further thought: I should have made three columns for our list above: On the cart, Pulling the cart, and Beggars. A lot of so-called cart-pullers up there are missing limbs, very ill, blind, or otherwise not up to performing their cart-pulling duties.


A Hundred!A Hundred!A Hundred!A Hundred!2010430 comments. Keep commenting and you're liable to break the internet.


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  1. Winged Ignorance says:

    I don’t think I would have made it. There were complications with my birth, such as the umbilical cord wrapped around my neck. In addition, I became extremely ill shortly after birth. I think that alone would have done it.

    If I had somehow survived through those, I think I would have survived. Breaking an arm and 6 and a leg at 8 would have probably left me a useless cripple, though. Couple that with poor eyesight, and… yep. Blind AND lame.

  2. Knastymike says:

    I nearly bit my tongue off when I was too young to remember. An oral surgeon had to repair it. If that wouldn’t have finished me off in the middle ages, I cut my thumb down to the bone in high school. I had to get a couple of stitches.

    Theoretically, the could have cauterized my tounge and amputated my thumb. I’d be mute and short a major digit (on the non-primary hand, thankfully), but I’d probably be alive, maybe?

  3. Ingvar says:

    It’s even chances in my case. I would probably have died of the burn I got at age 4-or-so, but I’d probably not have had taht burn without the combination of thermos flasks and kitchen ladders.

  4. Robin Z says:

    Two words: testicular torsion. At best we’re talking eunuch.

  5. phlux says:

    My brother was born breech, or would have been if he hadn’t been delivered via c-section. So there’s a good chance my mother wouldn’t have survived to give birth do a second child (me). Assuming she did, I think I would have done OK. Never any major illnesses or injuries. A propensity for really bad ingrown toenails might have hobbled me, but my guess is that in those times you just suffered through it, or your feet would eventually just harden up. Surgery fixed mine.

    Other than that I think I’d have been OK. 20/20 vision helps. I think a lot of people that are nearly blind would find life difficult in the middle ages. It makes you wonder how natural selection didn’t already weed out bad eyesight and a lot of these genetic disorders. Must be regressive traits, otherwise you’d think the dark ages would have straighted that out.

  6. Robyrt says:

    I’d have made it relatively unscathed – never been admitted to a hospital after birth, no serious illnesses – and probably even my allergy to mold would have been less pronounced in, say, southern France.

  7. Brandon says:

    Comment about the whole “sex without birth control, pumping out babies”. Production of eggs varies with health. Women were far less healthy and often malnourished and hungry. This means that they would be having periods and producing eggs much more slowly. So rather than having babies every 9 months they might be “lucky” to have a baby every few years. It was probably the rich and nobility who were having most of the babies, taking in women as concubines and consorts and keeping them healthy, with many bastard children. The general populace no doubt did have many children, but they wouldn’t have been healthy enough to be a factory rolling over every 9 months.

    • Jennifer says:

      Not to mention they didn’t have formula back in the middle ages and women probably exclusively breastfed for longer than we do now. That will delay your period and ovulation as well.

  8. anonymous coward says:

    MEDIEVAL EUNUCHS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

    I feel for you robin, i had a benign cyst on one of my testes, and from how i was describing the pain, they thought it was torsion.

    Like a doc marten to the sack with every step i took. >_

  9. Shamus says:

    Brandon: I agree. Not every 9 months. (Even healthy women don’t usually become fertile again until about the time they stop nursing.) But if she starts at 15 and keeps making babies until 40, and only has one every two years, that’s still 12 babies. For the population to remain flat, ten of them have to die.

  10. Anh Minh says:

    Hard to say. There is no precise incident I can pinpoint and say “Yep, that’d have killed me”.

    Complicated birth, but a competent physician might have been able to deal with it. (Then again, how much of the population had access to one?)

    I had childhood diseases like everyone, but I don’t know if they’d have been fatal.

    However, my health isn’t that good now, and my eyesight is very bad. (Probably made worse by modern stuff like late night reading and computers, though.)

  11. anonymous coward says:

    hmmm, my attempt at an in-pain emoticon broke the comment box.
    continued:

    And if, in our hypothetical middle ages scenario, i didnt die of that, or an infection from doctors poking around in there, i’d probably have died of athsma.

  12. Remus says:

    I would have made it to six. I cracked my face open when I as a kid. I probably would have bled to death or it would have gotten infected.

  13. Osc says:

    Reposted – and put me on the deader cart: appendectomy at 6.

  14. BriScan says:

    I’d have died during birth (taking my mother with me!).

  15. Ben says:

    I think in medieval times, it would have been even less socially acceptable for a man to leave the priesthood, and similarly for a woman to leave the convent. I would never have been born at all.

  16. Arthur says:

    I would have been survived, my mother wouldn’t have – I was born by caesarian.

  17. Christopher says:

    This a rather morbid discussion don’t you think? I’m alive, I think. Other than a few childhood injuries and illnesses, and with a little luck, I’d be pulling that cart.

  18. phlux says:

    I sometimes think about how awesome it would be to go back in time to the dark ages with a truckload (wagonload?) of science textbooks ranging from elementary to college.

    Naturally I would bring back some modern weaponry also to protect myself from witchburners and High Inquisitors attempting to silence my blasphemy.

    if successful I would be able to cure diseases, kickstart modern technology and avoid many of the early pitfalls like getting sucked into fossil fuels and whatnot.

    Could the world absorb that pace of change? Would it overpopulate itself in a matter of decades? Would it deforest the planet attempting to house the masses? I think if you could control the population growth and avoid the guillatine you’d be OK and the world would avoid 800 years of science as heresy.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      I guess you’d be percieved as just another manic preacher… why believe you and your “books” of “science”?
      … just try and go into some of the more science-averse communities in the world today and teach them — that’s really really hard, even more so when you’re talking to people who’re just barely scraping by anyway.

      Also, most of the stuff in textbooks, even the really practical ones, is so reliant on today’s industrial, technical and social infrastructure that you’d have a hard time even finding stuff that’d be appliccable.

  19. Alex says:

    I wouldn’t have been able to be born at all – my mother fractured her pelvis aged 20, and all her children have thus had to be born by C-section.

    But, assuming that I managed to be born (somehow), I’d be alive, but deaf. I had really bad ear infections as a child, including rupturing my eardrum twice. I had a minor greenstick fracture of my wrist when I was 8, but it would have healed up anyway. I also had a pretty visually impressive car accident last summer, but had no actual lasting injuries from that, although maybe that’s due to the anti-inflammatories they gave me in hospital; I really don’t know.

    So, alive, but less well. Much less well. Oh, and kiss goodbye to my education, too.

  20. Locri says:

    Like you, barring the whole mother thing (my Mom had two close calls before I was born, the second one was a barn collapsing on her two weeks before I was due O_O) I would have survived.

    I haven’t had any major health issues, the only thing I’d have to worry about is my eyesight… it’s not that good, but I could survive without glasses.

  21. Sir Sefirot says:

    I’m not certain that I would be alive. First, there’s a chance that I would have died during birth (caesarian), and then at age 6 I had a quite serious bronquitis. Not life-menacing serious, but again, there were no antibiotics back then… So I guess I would be on the cart.

  22. Hmm. Are we also assuming we are all members of the upper class, or at least wealthy middle-classers and can therefore afford some chap to set bones and so forth? The life of a ‘peasant’ is drastically shorter than that of a nobleman, if only because being worked to death is a good way to die younger. Also, women: are we ignoring the risks of childbirth?

    Given all that, I’d probably be still alive (at 23). I’m short-sighted and prone to mental health issues, though, so unless I’m a member of the clergy or a banker’s son I may have been killed for being a useless git. I also had a greenstick fracture in my right arm as a child which may have impaired my physical abilities somewhat.

  23. gomi no sensei says:

    You may have been okay after all, Shamus. Asthma is in part an overreaction of the immune system when it doesn’t have enough to fight. Yours would have had plenty to fight back then.

    Nothing that happened in my modern life would’ve killed me back then. I’ve never needed surgery and haven’t gone to the doctor for the bones I’ve broken. I have perfect vision, good tooth enamel, and a sturdy immune system. So I would have stood a chance at least.

  24. RedHillian says:

    I died in childbirth, killing my mother as well. That’s not a nice thought really.

    I was born after complications via an emergency cesearean, then spent a while in an incubator.

    Anything beyond that is moot, but I’d have most likely survived, although there’s been a couple of sets of antibiotics to clear infections in the last 30 years, any one of which could have done for me if it had got really bad, but not so likely.

  25. Oh, wait, I forgot: I had a severe bacterial infection in my chest at 20. *snap* That probably would have killed me, or at least developed into pneumonia…which would have killed me. Or at least left me with weak lungs, and something *else* would’ve killed me.

  26. Hanov3r says:

    I also had the cord wrapped around my neck at birth, which would have possibly killed me (it’s also possible that, in a community that’s used to assisting livestock give birth, something like that would have been dealt with via some deft handwork). Assuming I survived that, I’d likely still be alive – chicken pox at 9 and a couple of broken fingers and a broken nose (all at the age of 35 – those medieval combat sports will do you in!) are the worst that’s happened to me.

  27. When I was about three I got stomach flu really bad and couldn’t keep anything down. As a result I got severely dehydrated and was nearly comotose.

    I spent three days in the hospital on intravenous fluids. Without that I would have died.

  28. Marmot says:

    Well, seconding Cristopher’s comment as a necessity (but it is still a subject we do have to face once, that I agree)…

    My father is an engineer and my mother is a doctor, if that counts. I was born prematurely, about a bit less than a month early. This in itself is dangerous but not a certain death. For example, as said here…

    “In the 1950s and 1960s, approximately half of all low birth weight babies in the US died. Today, more than 90% survive.”

    – so – 30%? It might be dangerous, but it is a solid chance and not a wall like “roll initiative. you die”.
    Seeing how I was born prematurely I suffered from undescended right testicle. This was “fixed” by a surgery.

    “Undescended testicle – The condition affects approximately 30% of baby boys who are born prematurely and about 3% of newborn boys who are carried to term.
    In about half of the cases, undescended testicles move down on their own by the baby’s first birthday. If this doesn’t happen, it’s important to get treatment because testicles that remain undescended can hurt the child’s fertility down the line.”

    -> this one is not fatal, it just increases chance of infertility.
    Later I was maybe sickly in general, but I never at all had any life threathening disease or close to it, never broke anything or suffered more than a moderate bruise, etc., and never had to take any medications more serious than a herbal tea with honey. So unless 70% chance of not getting through the early birth counts as fatal, I guess I’d be pulling the cart just fine.

    Even after writing this I will be questioning my own honesty and fortitude after the conclusion. But it’s a thing we all have to come to grips with sometime in our lives. I am glad to be living today, that is all.

  29. Redguy says:

    Pulling the cart. Guess that my minor epilepsy would make me beggar or village idiot, but not dead. Apart from that, I’m enjoying pretty good health.

  30. Jag Dell says:

    I would have died of tetanos, got a small rock embedded in my chin after a nasty fall when I was 7.

    Apart from that I’m healty as an Ox. No allergies and no Asthma. I would probably have made it pretty far up the life expectancy chart.

  31. talorina says:

    Me, dead of pneumonia at 4. My sister, dead of bronchitis at 10 months. That’s a 50% survival rate among me and my siblings.

  32. Katy says:

    I got chicken pox when I was three, but only because my mother decided that my older sister should “give it to me” since it’s easier to get over when you’re young, apparently. I doubt she would’ve let my sister anywhere near me if we were living in the medieval era. Barring that, I’ve never had any major illness or accident. I broke my wrist once, but that’s not life-threatening.

    My mother probably would’ve died before I was born, but that assumes that tuberculosis was rampant in medieval times. I don’t *think* it was, so I’ll assume she didn’t catch it. My dad is like an ox, no worries there.

    I’ll have to say, “Pulling the Cart!”

  33. JohnW says:

    I was blind as a bat (thank you, LASIK). Don’t think I would have made it.

    The ~50% child mortality rate is, imo, the best argument against some of the more luddite environmentalists.

  34. Nathan M. says:

    Pulling the cart.

    An uncomplicated birth, no major illnesses, and no surgeries (yet) as of 35…

  35. Michael McHenry says:

    I turned out to be a really healthy guy, and probably would have lived, but so many mundane things can be deadly.

    My tooth enamel is incredibly ineffective. With modern dental hygene, I still had a root canal at 14 and many many other cavities. I’m sure it wasn’t uncommon to die from an abcess.

    When I was 29, I had a prostate infection(bacterial) and the flu(viral) at the same time. Even with antibiotics, that experience completely redefined my concept of hell. I might have survived that, but I don’t want to imagine how much worse that could have been.

    And, I’ve been wearing glasses since I was 7. And – possilby most dangerously – I’m hard wired to reject authority and convention.

  36. Rollie says:

    I’d have possibly died at 19 of an infected pilonidal cyst. I supposed I’ll just hedge my bet and say “on the cart”.

  37. Erik says:

    I suffered from severe asthma when I was very young, so that would put me on the cart. If gomi no sensei is right, though, that asthma would not have been such a problem in the middle ages, then I might well have lived– easy birth, never broken a bone or had anything worse than a cold in the head.

  38. Ryan says:

    Being a medievalist at heart, I’ve thought about this kind of thing quite a bit over the years.

    I’ve never had any major illnesses. I’ve never had any broken bones (or the like) that could have led to an infection.

    I joke that my Constitution score must be around 16 or 17.

    Actually, despite the danger, living then would have been a good way of keeping my weight at a fit level!

  39. -Chipper says:

    I had a severe laceration to my thigh when I was ~10 (12 stitches), but provided I survived any infection, I guess I’d still be here. So what are the chances? Roll a d20 & let’s see!

  40. Zak says:

    I’d have been just fine. However, I’d have had teeth like the rest of them brits! That’d probably be the only real downside to growing up in the 15th/16th centuries for me.

    Interesting topic sir!

  41. clodia says:

    I would be alive, but for no good reason.

    I was allergic to milk as a kid, and my allergic reaction was blockage in my ears until I was deaf. I had tubes in them twice.

    Also, I have horrid eyesight. My first doctor told me that I would be blind by the time I was 16. Thanks to some (apparently experimental) treatment, I am not blind and am fully functional.

    In the middle ages I would have been blind and deaf by the time I was supposed to get married. I would either have been a complete drain of resources or left on a cliff to wander off.

  42. Galenor says:

    I woulda copped it at about 14 – something got stuck in my appendix and was causing appendicitus, it woulda blown if it werent for the level of medicine we have today! Makes you appreciative of what we have in our scale of medicinal to a certain degree. :)

  43. Delta Force Leader says:

    Well I would have been a goner. As it is today I almost died when I was about 3 weeks old. Modern medicine barely saved me. Would I have survived in the Middle Ages…NOT A CHANCE!

  44. SimeSublime says:

    I’d definitely be on the cart. I turned blue 8 hours after birth, and had had open heart surgery twice before my first birthday. Huzzah for modern medicine.

  45. Falafel says:

    I have never been to a hospital in my life, but then again I haven’t even reached the venerable age of twenty yet, so who knows what would happen if I live longer than that.

  46. Deathblade_penguin says:

    I, like many others, would have probably died with the old appendicities. It hit me so hard when i was 15/16.. that it actually burst whilst the surgeon was removing it on the table. I wonder what percentage of the population got taken away with that sort of thing.

    Plus as a child, I seemed to catch illness very easily and suffered from all the childhood ones..

    put me on the cart, Shamus.

  47. Gus says:

    Appendicitis at 8. Turned so septic that even with modern medicine (in the early 80’s) I lost part of a kidney.

  48. Jeremiah says:

    I’m pretty sure I’d be alright. I’ve had a few ingrown tonails in my life, but to be fair they usually came about from me clipping at my nails too much with clippers, so that probably wouldn’t have happened. I dislocated my knee once, but I can’t imagine relocating it would’ve been too much for a doctor back then (if so, i guess amputation could have been an option). Only longterm illnesses I’e had are chicken pox and mono.

  49. Jessie says:

    Hard to say.

    I was a breech birth, and they were going to do a C-section, but I was too fast for the doctors.

    Ran into a window when I was two or so, and needed stitches on my eyebrow, but it’s doubtful that would have been fatal.

    Possibly tetanus, though. Almost took the tip of my finger off about a year and a half ago–I damaged the nerves and I still don’t have full feeling in it, possibly never will. Sliced through the meaty part of the pad but didn’t quite go all the way through, so the doctor just folded it back over and taped it shut to heal. Mind you, I may not have got tetanus, and if I’d avoided other infection I probably would have been all right, though my finger would be more of a mess than it is now.

    Had some problems with asthma when I was younger. I seem to have grown out of it, or my lungs are stronger, or something. Dunno what that’s about. Still might not have died; it was never very severe, compared to some people.

    My superpower is the ability to avoid serious injury. I can think of several times in my life where, if there were any justice, I should have been hurt badly, but somehow managed to not be. I don’t get it.

    Of course, I’m also something like 20/200 without my glasses, and without them, it’s entirely possible I would have receieved a serious injury due to that.

    My next-oldest sister definitely would not have made it. She would have died before her first birthday. Failure to thrive, as they say. The doctors never knew why, and she almost died anyway before they managed to get her to start gaining weight after being on an IV for ages. My father talks, sometimes, about how very small she was when they finally released her from the hospital; she looked about half her age.

  50. Mari says:

    Put me on the cart too. If I had survived three bouts of chicken pox and countless infections, I probably would have died a lingering, painful death to kidney stones. Or if the death had been lingering enough, I could have gone on to die in childbirth with my last kid.

    Well, I would have done except my husband would have either died or been paralyzed from the waist down before I ever got to meet him which would probably put a crimp in my baby-making.

    I also would have spent my twenty short years of life with one eye rolling randomly around in my head.

  51. I think I would be pull’n the cart :D

    I’m almost 19 and have had a pretty healthy life.
    The closest I’ve come to death would have been when I fell in the river when I was a kid. My mom pulled me out and took me to the hospital, but they didn’t need to do anything, so I would have been fine any way.

  52. arlani says:

    I probably would have made it, and more than likely, my older child would have been OK (though he was born by c-section). I’d have a pretty nasty scar on my lip, but I don’t recall any other major illnesses or accidents. Of course, antibiotics probably kept some of the potential majors at bay. My 10-month-old daughter, on the other hand, might be dead 3 times over by now. C-Section (rare, but historically possible since Roman era, BTW), streptococcus infection (probably wouldn’t have been as bad in MA, since it was a strain that was only slightly antibiotic resistant thanks to modern medicine), and major bladder infection that may have caused kidney failure if untreated. Baby-girl’s dad wouldn’t have made it out of childhood…

  53. Otus says:

    On the cart from a collapsed lung at 17. Three cheers for medicine!

  54. Martin says:

    Pretty sure I’d have made it, although I don’t know if my
    bout of chicken pox would have been fatal at 10 in the middle
    ages.

    An interesting statistic that I saw a number of months ago
    on a related topic. Infant mortality was higher than in the
    middle ages compared to today but *mother* mortality was even
    more dramatically higher. A woman had less than a 50% chance
    of surviving 3 child births in the middle ages.

  55. Kevin says:

    I’d have made it to this ripe old age of 37 without too much problem.

    – The one surgery I had was as elective as marriage expects. ;)
    – The other was to have my tonsils removed, and while it was strongly recommended, it wasn’t life threatening (and eating differently would probably have helped as well.

    I’ve had stitches, but no more than 3 at any given spot, which means that the stitches were to prevent bad scarring.

    I would have been bumped by a horse/cart twice, but I’m sure I would have walked away from them (as I did the cars).

    Never a broken bone, but I would probably be missing a few teeth.

    My eye sights the only questionable point, and it’s really not something I notice until after I take my glasses off. One eye is 20/45 or so, the other is 20/80…so neither are near “blind”.

    No major infections other than strep throat….which could have done me in as I ran a high fever, but that’s why man created streams, isn’t it? ;)

    If I weren’t pulling the cart, I’d be directing the traffic.

    –Kev.

  56. James Blair says:

    I was born blue from staying too long, though they didn’t have to do anything special to keep me alive. I suppose a medieval society may have freaked out and thrown me on the cart… I lost the tip of one of my fingers, which would be survivable assuming no nasty infections (at worst I’d lose the whole finger). My host of medical problems from being overweight probably would have never happened, and even if they did they’d be pretty close to what a medieval person would call a decent lifespan.

    To use Shamus’ term, I’d probably be some sort of “uncertainty lich”!

  57. Mik says:

    On the cart – big ol’ tumor in my neck at age 2 – though the rest of my family on both sides has been ‘sawbones friendly’ going back to at least the American Civil War (one of the greats or great-greats has his arm shot off with a cannon and went back to farming). Tough Yankees.

  58. VikingMonkey says:

    Hmmm. When I was younger I used to get Bronchitis like clockwork, every year – was that fatal? I suck at history. I now have Crohn’s Disease, so I could possibly be dead from dehydration, or malnutrition I suppose.

  59. Amanda says:

    If I could see where I was going, I would be pulling the cart. Good Italian peasant stock here, but very, very near-sighted.

  60. Rupert says:

    I’d probably be on the cart. At the age of four, I came down with a really bad infection, and at one point my fever spiked to 107 degrees. My parents had to give me ice water and alcohol baths to keep it down while they waited for the penicillin to do it’s thing. If I would have survived, I know I would have had brain damage (hey, now…watch it!)

    But then, at age six, I had a bad case of pneumonia that hospitalized me. No where near as bad, but at that time, it most likely would have been fatal.

    Interesting question, Shamus.

  61. Gary says:

    I broke my leg at the ripe young age of two and a half. Yes, that was 2.5 years on life.

    If I had been in the middle ages I likely would have been a cripple (I required a surgically implanted metal pin in my leg and a long while in traction)

    Being a cripple in modern times is hard enough, but a cripple in those days didn’t have much chance of survival. So unless I had been nobly born, I might not have lasted due to the rigorous nature of life in general and the need to work.

    I also have asthma, like you Shamus, but I think that most cases of Asthma are a modern creation due to all sorts of yummie pollutants, so I’m not sure if I would have had it or not.

    You can mark me down as on the cart… :P

  62. Michael L says:

    Probably would have died at birth – I had to be pulled out. If I’d survived that, meningitis at age 13 would have done me in (taking most of my village with me). Supposing I’d have survived that, my photo-phobia (sensitivity to light) probably would have gotten me labeled a vampire and I’d have died with a stake through my heart!

  63. Rich says:

    I was hit by a car in 1990 and thrown 20 feet head first into the curb. I was in surgery for 22 hours. They removed bone fragments from my brain and rebuilt my skull and right eye socket with teflon and titanium. Not to mention the two later reconstructive surgeries.

    I think that’s pretty simple. I was trampled by ye olde horse and my skull was crushed at the age of 31. RIP, me. ;)

    P.S. I’m doing much better thanks.

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  1. […] Interesting survey: How about you? How long would you have lived in the middle ages? Ignore all the general risks – like typhoid or the plague or cholera – that everyone would have faced in general. Let’s assume you were lucky and missed those. (Unless by some chance you actually DID face one of them in your life.) Also ignore the fact that your deadly injury might have been caused by modern technology, like an auto accident. Just pretend you were trampled by a horse or something. So, given the injuries and illness you’ve faced in your life so far: Did you make it? Would you have survived to your current age? […]

  2. By URL on January 4, 2013 at 1:23 pm

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