Death by bear-baiting! Health and Safety in Tudor England

Death by bear-baiting! Health and safety in Tudor England… not gone quite so mad

Having a job in the 16th century was a dangerous business, with nearly half of accidental deaths happening at work. A new study has documented the various gory ways in which workers met their end whilst driving carts, felling trees or working in mills. It found that even in Tudor England people adopted health and safety measures to make their jobs safer, although they didn’t always work as planned.

As part of a research project funded by the ESRC, University of Oxford historian Professor Steven Gunn has been scouring 16th century coroners’ reports and researching accidental deaths in Tudor England.

His findings give a unique insight into what life was like in the Tudor period including all the strange ways in which people died, for example being mauled to death by bears kept for bloodthirsty bear-baiting; drowning in cesspits; and being shot by stray arrows when practising archery.


However, despite the high accident rates workers in the Tudor period did adopt health and safety procedures to try to reduce deaths.

Find out more on the project website here:

Read the full ESRC press release here: