Medieval English Social Inequality and Bone Health: What Lessons are There to be Learnt for the Living?

  • Justyna J. MiszkiewiczEmail author


There is no doubt that modern lifestyles have an effect on our health. The ways in which our bodies respond and adapt to the daily activities we engage in and the types of food we eat are influenced by our socio-economic surroundings. These are further linked to individual frailty, immunity, genetic predisposition to develop certain conditions, and other aspects of physiology that collectively allow us to function in biocultural contexts. The skeletal system, as it serves roles of movement, mineral reservoir, cell production, and organ protection, is paramount when adapting to a spectrum of human behaviours. Within ageing modern populations, bone loss and maintenance require close monitoring to manage increasing skeletal fragility and associated fracture risk. Socio-economic inequality in access to appropriate care, education, and resources is a major factor underlying bone health issues we observe today. To better understand the effect of socio-economic status (SES) on the living skeleton, we ought to turn our attention to past societies of distinct social stratification which is reflected in the health of their surviving skeletal remains. This chapter introduces medieval English lifestyles collated from historical and bioarchaeological accounts to illustrate the impact SES inequality can have on bone health.


Lifestyle Bone Bioarchaeology Socio-economic status Biological anthropology 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Archaeology and AnthropologyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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