Two sports now considered inhumane were active twice a week in London. These "blood sports" thought by most people today to be too gruesome, cruel and violent, had great appeal for the Elizatethans. Large crowds of both men and women of all classes flocked to see bear baiting or bull baiting , and Elizabeth frequently used it to entertain visiting ambassadors. "The average Elizabethan," writes historian M.St. Clair Byrne, "was not sensitive to the spectacle of physical suffering, either in human beings or in animals." The building shown here on the left was the arena where bear and bull baiting was held.

external image Soccer.jpgTeam sports gained in popularity during Elizabeth's reign. They, too, were rough and violent like the sports involving animals. Common men played football (not an ancestor of American football, despite the similarities) received its name not because the ball was kicked but because all the players went on foot. It was extremely violent as there were few rules. Hurling, a combination of hockey and polo, had some players on foot, others on horseback. The object of the game was to strike a ball (with a stick or a club) so that it went over the opponents' goal. Country hurling might match the entire adult male populations of two villages, and the goals might be three or four miles apart.


external image Fencing.jpgexternal image Hawking.jpgFencing was one of the most popular of sports. Betting was commonplace as one of the contestants might bet that he could hit his opponent a certain number of times. In addition, much time was spent with the sport of hawking - very popular with gentlemen. Training a hawk or a falcon began with the capturing of a wild bird, then taming it by sealing its eyes with needle and thread, then tying the thread back over the head of the bird so that the trainer could open and close the bird's eyes at will. The temporary blinding made it very easy to train the hawk or falcon to hunt other birds. Bells were attached to the birds legs so that the trainer could keep track of its whereabouts.


Events in England

Queen Elizabeth takes the throne-1558
Coronation of Queen Elizabeth-1559
Queen dangerously ill with smallpox-1562
William Shakespeare born-1564
Smoking of tobacco was introduced to England by John Hawkins, a slave trader

In America

A party of 1500 Spanish settlers sailed from Vera Cruz to found a settlement on Pensacola Bay, in Florida. They were repulsed by hostile Indians-1559
St. Augustine, FL founded by Pedro Menendez de Aviles-1565

World Events

The understanding of human blood circulation was advanced by the work of Italian anatomish Realdo Columbus-1559
Henry II, King of France dies of a head wound received during a jousting tournament-1559
Puritanism begins in Europe-1560
Michaelangelo dies at the age of 89-1564



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The BLACK DEATH, also known as the bubonic plague, is a contagious, often fatal epidemic disease caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis, transmitted from person to person or by the bite of fleas from an infected host, especially a rat, and characterized by chills, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and the formation of buboes.


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The Black Death first appeared in London in 1348, brought there by the fleas living on rats which came ashore from ships arriving from Asia. Already this terrible epidemic had killed millions people before reaching the European continent where the initial outbreak occurred in and around Italy. The disease struck and killed people with terrible speed. In October, 1347 an eyewitness account claimed:
"Realizing what a deadly disaster had come to them, Italians were driven from their city. But the disease remained, and soon death was everywhere. Fathers abandoned their sick sons. Lawyers refused to come and make out wills for the dying. Friars and nuns were left to care for the sick, and monasteries and convents were soon deserted, as they were stricken, too. Bodies were left in empty houses, and there was no one to give them a Christian burial."

By the following August, the plague had spread as far north as England, where people called it "The Black Death" because of the black spots it produced on the skin. A terrible killer was loose across Europe, and Medieval medicine had nothing to stop it. In the winter, the disease seemed to disappear, but only because fleas--which were a major connection in spreading the disease, --are dormant at this time. Each spring, the plague attacked again, killing new victims. After five years 25 million people were dead--one-third of Europe's people.


The "Black Death" was caused by the bacillus which was primarily an internal parasite of wild rodents, such as rats, mice and squirrels. It is carried to man by fleas deserting dying or dead animals in search of nourishment. It may enter the bloodstream directly as the flea bites the human or indirectly through contact between the fleas' excrement, and scratches or lesions on the the skin. (The Deadly Cycle)

When the bacteria invade the lymph nodes, the nodes swell and are called Buboes. Blood vessels break and cause internal bleeding. The dried blood under the skin turns black, hence the name "Black Death". (Gross Pictures) Symptoms include high fevers and aching limbs and vomiting of blood. The swellings continue to expand until they eventually burst, with death following soon after. The whole process from fever and aches to final expiration, is 3-4 days. The swiftness of the disease, the terrible pain, the grotesque appearance of the victims, all served to make the plague especially terrifying.
Another form of the disease was labeled as pneumonic plague so named because it was spread by infected droplets of the bacteria being inhaled from a sneeze