The English Sweating Sickness of 1485-1551 and the Ecclesiastical Response
During the 15th and 16th centuries, five epidemics of a disease characterized by high fever and profuse sweating ravaged England. The disease became known as English sweating sickness because it started in England, though it also struck Ireland and mainland Europe. The infectious disease was reportedly marked with pulmonary components, and the mortality rate was estimated to be between 30% and 50%. The evidence of the “sweating sickness” story is medically fascinating and historically noteworthy as to its sudden appearance in 1485 and major disappearance in 1551. This was a period when the Church of England broke away from the Roman Catholic Church; and the then Prince of Wales, Arthur Tudor, died possibly of sweating sickness. The Church played a vital role during those periods: responses were made in the form of treatment (in Germany), ecclesiastical prayers, tailored worship, and devotions during those trying times, and the preservation of fragile records relating to the epidemics.
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