Life In The 16th Century

I've often wondered what life was a hundred or even a thousand years ago.  What was their daily life like?  What did they do if they got sick?  By most accounts, if they got a sudden illness, they died.  Medicine was based on superstition and barbaric practices back in those days.  The Middle Ages or the Dark Ages was best known for the Bubonic Plague that wiped out about 25% of the population in Europe. Life was anything but routine as people scratched out an existence in small farming communities.  There was mining of coal, tin and lead.  But, most people made their living farming.  By most historical accounts, the 16th century saw the rise of the West as Spain and Portugal explored the seas.  But, by most standards of today, life was exceedingly harsh back in the 16th century.  Let's take a look of a few examples of what life was like during this time in history.

Most people married in June because they took their yearly bath in May (imagine that). Some smelled pretty good in June. However, they were starting to stink, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence, the custom of carrying a bouquet when getting married.  I had often wondered why brides had the bouquets. 

The floors of homes were dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt; hence the saying, "dirt poor."

Some things never change.  In 1506, a riot in Lisbon, Portugal caused the deaths of over 2000 Jews.

Most homes had a big kettle always over a fire. Few could afford to eat meat.  Most people ate vegetables, eat the stew for dinner and leave the leftovers in the pot. Then the next day they would start over.  Food stayed in these pots for days, weeks even.  There had to be a lot of food poisoning back in the 16th century.

 Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with a high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

People during this time were also quite small due to a poor diet.

The men only grew to be about 5'6" and the women were 4'8". So in their house they had 27 people living. Most homes were quite small.  So, just try to imagine living conditions if you will.
Bread was divided according to status. The workers would get the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family would get the middle and guests would get the top, or the "upper crust".

England is so old and small they started running out of places to bury people. So they started digging up some coffins and would take their bones to a house and re-use the grave. They started opening these coffins and found some had scratch marks on the inside.  Obviously, it was difficult to detect if someone was actually dead back then.  This brought on placing coins over the eyelids of people considered dead.  If their eyes opened, the coin would fall off.
Young girls couldn't choose their husband, it was the father who decides who she should marry.  Often times the father would make sure his daughter was a virgin by threatening the life of any young stud who sought the sexual pleasures of his daughter.  A virgin would bring forth a large dowry to the father.  

Ever wonder where the term "room and board" came from?  Probably not.  But,
if you were going traveling and wanted to stay at an Inn they usually provided the bed, but not the board to eat off of.
Now, life was harsh in that era of history.  So, if you ever get to thinking about the good old says of long ago when life was simple, you might want to think again.  We are living in the "good old days" right now.



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