Living la vita apostolica. Life expectancy and mortality of nuns in late-medieval Holland

Number: 
44
Author: 
Zuijderduijn, J.

Data on vital events of medieval women are extremely scarce. We use a datasetbased on a necrology of nuns in late-medieval Holland to arrive at estimates for thedevelopment of life expectancy and mortality. The first study of its kind for the Low Countries, it shows striking differences in the development of life expectancy and mortality between Holland and England. In the fifteenth century, life expectancy at age 25 in Holland was much higher than in England. Also, mortality among our population of nuns was much lower than among monks in England, and mortality crises were less frequent. Our result support claims by Van Bavel and Van Zanden (2003) about the relatively early recovery of the population of Holland, as well as the mild impact of infectious diseases. The comparison with England suggests that this country’s crisis of the late Middle Ages was most likely the result of a high-mortality demographic regime.