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Medical History.

Uther_Pendragon

In Battle Cry of Freedom, McPherson tells us that the Union army in the Civil War lost 2 times as many people to illness as to combat deaths. That sounds bad, but he says that the British record in Crimea was 4 to 1 and in the Napoleonic wars, 8 to 1. There are 3 reasons for the high rate of illness death:

1) Weapons (and transportation which enabled rapid-fire weapons to be supplied) improved over this period. (2) Bringing troops together spread disease. (Measles was a major illness in the Union Army.) (3) Medicine was so bad then that everybody got sick more often and died earlier.

If you write anything historical, you have to keep that third factor in mind.

Our modern (first world) experience is that death from illness of people younger than 60 or so is comparatively rare. That was not the case in previous periods.

First, medical care improved, and then things like sewage treatment improved. Experience changed over time, and then -- after a significant delay -- perceptions changed.

If you take your current picture of families and use it for a historical period when -- in actuality -- the infant-mortality rate was 50% or greater, then you are picturing something unrealistic.

And, of course, contraception use is relatively modern. Even when condoms were available, they were not used by married couples. (A century ago, simply advocating this was punishable under pornography statutes.)

So, if you have a group of married couples in the Victorian or earlier period something between half and a third of the wives were pregnant. That means quite large families in the latest portion of that time; it means having lost many children in the earlier times.

Ross at Play
Updated:

You're right about deaths from diseases being the main killer of soldiers fighting wars until after WW I.

I caught a mild case of typhoid, despite being vaccinated, a few years back. I read up on it and recall reading that WW I was the first war than an army did not have over half its casualties caused by typhoid. The allied army gave their soldiers the recently developed vaccine and their casualties were less than half. The Germans did not and casualties were over half.

Obviously dysentery and measles caused many more deaths too.

I doubt what I read was literally true. I suspect it only considered European wars in the previous few centuries. But still, typhoid was worst killer of soldiers during wars all the way up until a reliable vaccine was developed to prevent it.

StarFleet Carl

@Uther_Pendragon

That means quite large families in the latest portion of that time; it means having lost many children in the earlier times.


Even into what you consider modern times. On my mothers side - eldest uncle was born in 1920, second eldest in 1922. Between 1922 and 1934, when my mom was born, three children, none lived to see their second birthday.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Not_a_ID

@StarFleet Carl

Even into what you consider modern times. On my mothers side - eldest uncle was born in 1920, second eldest in 1922. Between 1922 and 1934, when my mom was born, three children, none lived to see their second birthday.


The 1930's was where a pair of big game changers started to gain traction. Chlorinated water in public water systems(killing off the bacteria and other nasties in the water), and antibiotics.

richardshagrin

Another factor was the germ theory of disease, when attendants at birthing started washing their hands. And vaccination and inoculation became more common, at least in first world countries for smallpox and other viral diseases.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@Uther_Pendragon


And, of course, contraception use is relatively modern. Even when condoms were available, they were not used by married couples. (A century ago, simply advocating this was punishable under pornography statutes.)


That's not actually true. The ancient Roman women has a local plant they used to spontaneously trigger an abortion, and it was so widely used (which helps account for the strength of the central core of the Roman empire remaining so strong for so long), the plant became extinct long before the Republic collapsed.

What changed between then and now (just like the open homosexuality in the Greek era), is the effects of religion on society. While religion has never called for free birth control, they weren't so involved in condemning everyone who wasn't cranking out babies on a regular basis. When the Catholic church made it their central focus to control women's lives and foster larger families than most couple's could support, those earlier laissez faire attitudes evaporated and no one dared argue the point.

Even more recently, the entire 'witch burning' conducted by the church was largely over the female-led prescribing of birth control via natural means by midwives, who were familiar with the medicinal uses of local herbs. That role of female-centric natural assistance to other women is behind the new Wiccan movement (i.e. no one in the group ever worshiped Satan or the devil, as the original Wiccans didn't even believe he existed).

But then, you can see how well those 'movements' fared once the central churches were in political power.

That said, your advice is spot on. Writing historical fiction needs to concentrate on what was possible and common during those periods, but even then, there were 'unofficial' work arounds for those who had access to them.

After all, it's not like women all craved being pregnant their entire fertile years, or that gays and lesbians simply didn't exist before the modern era (there are plenty of verified occurrences during the Civil War and the Westward Expansion, when no one knew who you used to be), but they knew how to survive in those times, and if you could find someone familiar with these other groups, they could help you circumvent the traditional limits imposed on the majority.

Replies:   sunkuwan  REP  joyR  joyR  Dominions Son
sunkuwan

@Crumbly Writer

Yeah, I recently listened to Dan Carlin's Hardcore history Episode "Painfotainment", where he talked about executions in the past.

Most executions (if you exclude war-related executions) were of Women. And the crime that was most cited was "Infanticide", the killing of a newborn. Aborting a fetus would also count as Infanticide in most regions.

REP

@Crumbly Writer

That's not actually true. The ancient Roman women has a local plant they used to spontaneously trigger an abortion


There is a major difference between contraception and abortion.

Replies:   joyR
joyR

@Crumbly Writer

That's not actually true. The ancient Roman women has a local plant they used to spontaneously trigger an abortion


Yes, they did, they and others had a range of herbs and potions, some were taken daily or as needed depending on sexual activity, others were, as you describe, an early version of the 'morning after' pill we have today.

joyR

@REP

There is a major difference between contraception and abortion.


Yes, there is. Contraception usually works, abortion always does.

(NB This isn't the correct thread or place to start a debate on that subject. My statement above is neither pro or anti, it is simply fact.)

joyR

@Crumbly Writer

Even more recently, the entire 'witch burning' conducted by the church was largely over the female-led prescribing of birth control via natural means by midwives, who were familiar with the medicinal uses of local herbs.


Not exactly. The bottom line was the church wanted those seeking help to go prey and make offerings to the church, not to anyone else. It was all about money and power.

That role of female-centric natural assistance to other women is behind the new Wiccan movement


Wicca, 'original' was not a written religion, the only texts that exist are those written by the people suppressing it. No modern Wiccan can truly claim what they do is exactly as the 'old' Wiccans practised for that reason.

Druids are in the same boat, except their beliefs expressly forbade writing anything down.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ross at Play

@joyR

My statement above is neither pro or anti

There's a recommendation in CMoS that uppercase letters should be used when writing 'Pro-Life' and 'Pro-Choice'.

That is inconsistent with their other recommendations and there's no grammatical justification for it. I assume their reason is 'THOSE people own guns!' :(

Replies:   joyR
joyR

@Ross at Play

There's a recommendation in CMoS that uppercase letters should be used


Personally I don't wish to dignify either camp with uppercase.

awnlee jawking

@joyR

Contraception usually works, abortion always does.


You could argue that administration of an abortifacient is not always successful. And there was a case in my paper recently where a woman successfully had an abortion but somehow its twin survived and the woman went on to successfully give birth.

AJ

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


as the original Wiccans didn't even believe he existed)


Wicca as such only goes back to 1921. However, you are correct, they were never Satanists, Wicca is loosely based on ancient Celtic pagan religion.

However, the Catholic church had long ago adopted iconography for devils/demons in general and Satan in particular deliberately based on the ancient Celtic horned god (no where in the bible is Satan or any other fallen angel described in such terms) in their efforts to stamp out paganism.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicca

Of course it's really hard to tell at this point if the original Wiccans were actual believers or if they, like the modern Church of Satan, the Flying Spaghetti Monster idiots, and others, were just using it to mock more conventional religions.

Dominions Son

@joyR

abortion always does.


This is not true.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/683631

Replies:   joyR
Dominions Son
Updated:

@joyR


No modern Wiccan can truly claim what they do is exactly as the 'old' Wiccans practised for that reason.


Actually, there is no evidence that there are any "old" Wiccans (in the sense of a coherent religion). Wicca is loosely based on Celtic pagan religion, but there is no evidence that the term Wicca was ever used by the ancient Celts in the context of their religion.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicca#Definition_and_terminology

Although pronounced differently, the Modern English term "Wicca" is derived from the Old English wicca (/ˈwɪttʃɑː/) and wicce (/ˈwɪttʃeɪ/), the masculine and feminine term for witch, respectively, that was used in Anglo-Saxon England.[21] By adopting it for modern usage, Wiccans were both symbolically cementing their connection to the ancient, pre-Christian past,[22] and adopting a self-designation that would be less controversial than "Witchcraft".[23]

Replies:   joyR
joyR
Updated:

@Dominions Son


This is not true.


Actually it is. If you read the link you quoted, you'll see it lists the errors made, the reasons and what should be done, but wasn't, to ensure it does not fail.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

You could argue that administration of an abortifacient is not always successful.


Actually, there are documented cases where surgical abortions failed.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

Actually, there are documented cases where surgical abortions failed.


Yes, I've just read your link. I'm not sure what they mean when they say an abortion was only partially successful (other than my example case of one twin surviving the attempted abortion). Can a partial abortion leave a live, viable foetus? Or does it mean eg the placenta got left behind.

AJ

joyR

@Dominions Son

Agreed, I was keeping it simple.

[22] Examining its antecedents, including the Old English "wicca" and the early Gardnerian "Wica", the author looks at the many definitions that the term has seen over the last seventy years, and comes to conclusions that provide a new interpretation of not only how the term has been used in the Pagan community of the past and the present, but also how it can most effectively be used in the future.

(my bold)

Author currently working on his PhD project.

Dominions Son

@joyR

Actually it is. If you read the link you quoted


No, it's not. It might not be mentioned in that particular article, but there are documented cases of live birth following surgical abortions.

I've read about cases where the child, as an adult, sued the abortionist*, due to deformities and other disabilities resulting from the failed abortion.

* I'm not aware if any of these cases were successful.

Replies:   joyR
joyR

@Dominions Son

resulting from the failed abortion


I didn't choose the article you linked to in your post. I just read it.

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