Peakland’s a wonderful place to live? It wasn’t back then!


Retired doctor John Spencer has just published a fascinating book that examines the differences between our healthy lifestyles today and the miserable existence of our ancestors before the advent of antibiotics, vaccination and comprehensive health services. Here he gives us a taste of that ‘miserable existence’ in days happily long gone!

WE ALL KNOW that the Peak District is a wonderful place. Surrounded by a population of over ten million people, it is a playground and sanctuary for walkers, climbers, runners or simply a haven for those who seek refuge, tranquility and communion with nature. However, if today’s visitors could travel back in time they would fi nd a far less utopian Peak District. Before the days of mechanised transport, electricity, clean water, sanitation and scientific medicine life was hard, uncomfortable, reflecting the words of Thomas Hobbes that life is harsh, brutal and short! As recently as 1896, the medical officer for health in Chesterfield recorded in the annual report that 167 out of 1000 live births had died before their first birthday and that four out of 100 overall deaths were due to infectious diseases such as smallpox scarlet fever, whooping cough, diphtheria, malnutrition and diarrhea…