The Truth About Medieval Toilet Habits

We've read about the awful plight of waste disposal as cities grew large before modern sewer systems were installed. A reader asked, "Before sewer systems, did people in England really toss their poop into the streets?" The answer is complicated.   

Now, to be clear, generalizing about what a large and diverse group of people did over a millennium time span is extremely dodgy business, and we’re not saying that some Medieval Britons didn’t sometimes toss their solid waste out the window. (After-all, laws against doing just that, which we’ll talk about shortly, didn’t come from nowhere; and there certainly are many documented accounts of people doing this in said massive time-span, though you’ll note that many of said documented instances describe liquid, rather than solid waste.) We’re simply saying that the documented evidence at hand seems to indicate it was nowhere near as commonplace in Britain as pop culture would have you believe.

What actually happened was that people tried all kinds of ways to get rid of sewage, and some methods worked better than others, while none worked perfectly. Read about the experimentation of necessity at Today I Found Out.


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