King of England's Sickness: A Description of the English Sweat and an Evaluation of the Gendered Nature and Treatment of this Early Modern Illness
Lentz, Hilary Howard
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Between 1485 and 1551, there were five outbreaks of a deadly disease, known as the sweating sickness, in England. Characterized by a swift onset of violent symptoms, including profuse malodorous sweating, it almost certainly led to death within forty-eight hours. Although it did affect the lower classes, it appeared to infect mostly elite English men, particularly those in the courts of Henry VII, Henry VIII, and Edward VI. Generally, more men than women had the sweating sickness, and women were more likely to survive it; the treatment also varied for men and women. This paper will examine how people in the early modern period perceived their bodies and particular illnesses, and how they recognized and distinguished the sweating sickness from other illnesses. This thesis will argue that, whatever the sickness may have been, it did affect men and women differently because their lives were so drastically different, partly because their perceptions and conceptions about the male, female, and diseased body were fundamentally different and, most often, flawed, in that they were not anatomically correct, in the modern sense.