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'Very sore nights and days': the child's experience of illness in early modern England, c.1580-1720.

Newton H - Med Hist (2011)

Bottom Line: It is argued that children's experiences were characterised by profound ambivalence: illness could be terrifying and distressing, but also a source of emotional and spiritual fulfillment and joy.It also sheds light on children's emotional feelings for their parents, a subject often overlooked in the historiography of childhood.The primary sources used in this article include diaries, autobiographies, letters, the biographies of pious children, printed possession cases, doctors' casebooks, and theological treatises concerning the afterlife.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of History, School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Exeter, The Queen's Drive, Exeter, Devon EX44QJ, UK. h.c.newton@ex.ac.uk

ABSTRACT
Sick children were ubiquitous in early modern England, and yet they have received very little attention from historians. Taking the elusive perspective of the child, this article explores the physical, emotional, and spiritual experience of illness in England between approximately 1580 and 1720. What was it like being ill and suffering pain? How did the young respond emotionally to the anticipation of death? It is argued that children's experiences were characterised by profound ambivalence: illness could be terrifying and distressing, but also a source of emotional and spiritual fulfillment and joy. This interpretation challenges the common assumption amongst medical historians that the experiences of early modern patients were utterly miserable. It also sheds light on children's emotional feelings for their parents, a subject often overlooked in the historiography of childhood. The primary sources used in this article include diaries, autobiographies, letters, the biographies of pious children, printed possession cases, doctors' casebooks, and theological treatises concerning the afterlife.

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Woodcut of hell from the anonymous A voice from heaven to the youth of Great Britain, London, printed by T Norris, 1720 (British Library).
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fig2: Woodcut of hell from the anonymous A voice from heaven to the youth of Great Britain, London, printed by T Norris, 1720 (British Library).

Mentions: [If] thou wilt continue to be a naughty wicked Child… Then thou with all thy wicked Companions shall be tumbled into the Lake that burns with Fire and Brimstone; there thou shalt endure such unspeakable Pain and Torment, which cannot be conceived; there thou shalt continually lie burning and broiling… never have end, nor never have ease night nor day… there thou shalt always be crying and roaring under those great intollerable Flames… O my dear Child, Hell is a dreadful place, worse Ten thousand times than thy Parents beating thee.176


'Very sore nights and days': the child's experience of illness in early modern England, c.1580-1720.

Newton H - Med Hist (2011)

Woodcut of hell from the anonymous A voice from heaven to the youth of Great Britain, London, printed by T Norris, 1720 (British Library).
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3066672&req=5

fig2: Woodcut of hell from the anonymous A voice from heaven to the youth of Great Britain, London, printed by T Norris, 1720 (British Library).
Mentions: [If] thou wilt continue to be a naughty wicked Child… Then thou with all thy wicked Companions shall be tumbled into the Lake that burns with Fire and Brimstone; there thou shalt endure such unspeakable Pain and Torment, which cannot be conceived; there thou shalt continually lie burning and broiling… never have end, nor never have ease night nor day… there thou shalt always be crying and roaring under those great intollerable Flames… O my dear Child, Hell is a dreadful place, worse Ten thousand times than thy Parents beating thee.176

Bottom Line: It is argued that children's experiences were characterised by profound ambivalence: illness could be terrifying and distressing, but also a source of emotional and spiritual fulfillment and joy.It also sheds light on children's emotional feelings for their parents, a subject often overlooked in the historiography of childhood.The primary sources used in this article include diaries, autobiographies, letters, the biographies of pious children, printed possession cases, doctors' casebooks, and theological treatises concerning the afterlife.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Department of History, School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Exeter, The Queen's Drive, Exeter, Devon EX44QJ, UK. h.c.newton@ex.ac.uk

ABSTRACT
Sick children were ubiquitous in early modern England, and yet they have received very little attention from historians. Taking the elusive perspective of the child, this article explores the physical, emotional, and spiritual experience of illness in England between approximately 1580 and 1720. What was it like being ill and suffering pain? How did the young respond emotionally to the anticipation of death? It is argued that children's experiences were characterised by profound ambivalence: illness could be terrifying and distressing, but also a source of emotional and spiritual fulfillment and joy. This interpretation challenges the common assumption amongst medical historians that the experiences of early modern patients were utterly miserable. It also sheds light on children's emotional feelings for their parents, a subject often overlooked in the historiography of childhood. The primary sources used in this article include diaries, autobiographies, letters, the biographies of pious children, printed possession cases, doctors' casebooks, and theological treatises concerning the afterlife.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus