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Medieval queen dabs sweat from her brow. Source: Alliance / Adobe Stock.

The Sweating Plague Was Deadlier Than It Sounds (Video)

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In the late 15th and 16th centuries, England was gripped by a deadly disease known as Sudor Anglicus or English sweat. This malady, unlike the Black Death, did not grant immunity to survivors. In 1485, during the War of the Roses, Lord Stanley hesitated to commit his troops due to fears of the sweat, potentially altering history's course. Sweating sickness displayed peculiar traits. It mainly targeted the wealthy and spared children and the elderly. Outbreaks occurred in 1508, 1517, 1528, and 1551, claiming thousands of lives. Symptoms included profuse sweating, fever, redness, and headaches and victims often succumbed within 24 hours. Its cause remains debated, with poor sanitation and contaminated water as likely culprits.

Fear and superstition abounded. Some attributed it to evil forces, while John Caius, a prominent physician, suggested metaphysical causes. He believed diet and exercise could offer protection. The disease followed a seasonal pattern, striking in spring and fading in fall. Its rapid progression led to a swift demise, with no guarantee of immunity for survivors. The English sweating sickness was a uniquely deadly and mysterious plague, vanishing as suddenly as it appeared, leaving a dark chapter in history.

Top image: Medieval queen dabs sweat from her brow. Source: Alliance / Adobe Stock.

By Robbie Mitchell



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Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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