Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login

Medics, Monarchs and Mortality, 1600-1800: Origins of the Knowledge-Driving Health Transition in Europe

Contents:

Author Info

  • S. R. Johansson

    ()
    (The University of Cambridge)

Registered author(s):

    Abstract

    Medical knowledge – defined broadly to include both its private and public forms – has been the driving force behind the historical transitions that have raised life expectancy in modern Europe. Advances in knowledge, rather than better nutrition (particularly the escape from caloric insufficiency) deserve greater emphasis because the very first groups to undergo anything recognizable as a secular rise in longevity were the rich and well fed, rather than the poor and chronically malnourished. At the beginning of the 16th century Europe’s ruling elites lacked virtually any reliable information about how best to use their ample material resources to prevent, manage and cure the ill-health that caused so many premature deaths among them. The advance of medical knowledge and practice accelerated in Western Europe after c. 1500, with a succession of discoveries that were quite useful (as judged by modern standards) in preventing disease, reducing “life-style” risks, managing illness and providing cures for a few debilitating and deadly diseases – severe dysentery, syphilis, malaria, scurvy and, finally, smallpox, being the principal diseases affected. Yet, access to most of the available innovative medical care remained closely restricted. Medical expertise was limited and highly priced, and many of the measures prescribed were unaffordable even to town-dwelling middling-income families in environments that exposed them to endemic and epidemic disease. Along with the poor, they therefore were left at a grave health disadvantage vis-à-vis adult members of the wealthy urban families to whose conditions the doctors were attending. The London-based ruling families of England in this epoch benefited to an exceptional degree among the European elites from the contemporary progress of medicine. Their improved chances of survival in adulthood were the major factor raising royal life expectancy at birth (males and females, combined) from 24.7 years for the cohort born during the 1600s to 49.4 years for those born during the 1700s.

    Download Info

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
    File URL: http://www.economics.ox.ac.uk/materials/papers/4622/johansson85.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford in its series Oxford University Economic and Social History Series with number _085.

    as in new window
    Length: 73 pages
    Date of creation: 11 Oct 2010
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:nuf:esohwp:_085

    Contact details of provider:
    Web page: http://www.nuff.ox.ac.uk/economics/

    Related research

    Keywords:

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    References

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
    as in new window
    1. Samuel H. Preston & Michael R. Haines, 1991. "Fatal Years: Child Mortality in Late Nineteenth-Century America," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number pres91-1, May.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Lists

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nuf:esohwp:_085. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Maxine Collett).

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.