One of the things I try to do as an author is maintain a level of historical accuracy. But sometimes that's tough. Sometimes different books and websites will tell you different things. And in that case...do I go crazy trying to figure it out, or just make up my own stuff?
Case in point: life expectancy. It's common knowledge that people in the Middle Ages didn't live for very long. You got married at 15, had five kids, and then died of cholera at the age of 30. Right?
It might be true that the life expectancy for a person was somewhere around 30 or 35. But there's a reason for that: infant and child mortality. There were no NICU's in the year 950. Some sources say that half of everyone born in the Middle Ages died before their twentieth birthday. Yes, pro-vaxxers, diseases had a lot to do with that. Things like scarlet fever, typhoid, influenza, smallpox, and tuberculosis (called consumption at the time) were commonplace, and children didn't always have the strength to survive these things.
But the lack of vaccines weren't the only culprit. People didn't understand hygiene at all. Norse people only took baths once a week, and only God knows if they washed their hands before meals (or used soap if they did so). At some point, the church decided taking baths was actually bad for you, and people went their whole lives without bathing. Sewage ran in the streets. Outhouses were too close to drinking wells. You get the picture.
Oh, yes--diseases weren't the only things that killed people. Famines were commonplace. If you had a bad harvest, if you were at war and someone decided to set fire to your fields, if you were in a city under siege...you couldn't exactly run to Dollar General to pick up some milk and peanut butter.
Now, for those lucky people who survived to adulthood, you could expect to live for a while. How long? It depended. A lot of women died in childbirth; a lot of men died in battle. But living to the age of 55 or even 60 was not unheard of. Snorri Sturluson, a famous Icelandic historian and author, lived to be 62. He would have lived longer than that, too, had someone decided not to murder him.
So the next time you pick up Where the Clouds Catch Fire (either by clicking the "purchase" tab above or by dropping by the Amazon Kindle store), don't be surprised when you find out Lukas is in his fifties. It wasn't as uncommon as most people think.
Have you discovered something different in your own research? Let me know in the comments below; I'm always looking for information! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.