Public Health and Nineteenth-Century Literature Essay

Public Health and Nineteenth-Century Literature Essay

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Public Health and Nineteenth-Century Literature

"To envy nought beneath the ample sky; to mourn no evil deed, no hour misspent and, like a living violet, silently return in sweets to heaven what goodness lent, then bend beneath the chastening shower content."

The concerns and problems of the people living in nineteenth century England differed dramatically from those that eventually challenged those living in the same place during the 20th century. During the nineteenth century the English were plagued with many epidemics, but lacked the knowledge and capability to successfully treat and eliminate these diseases. London, like other British cities, had appalling sanitary conditions. These conditions were responsible for a rash of epidemics which so heightened public concern about the city's poor health conditions that in 1848 a general Board of Health was established. Among the Board's members was Edwin Chadwick. In that same year, John Simon, a London surgeon, was appointed London's Medical Officer of Health. Chadwick and Simon dominated London's public health movement from the 1840's - 1870's. Indeed, these two gentlemen were behind the 1875 Public Health Act which consolidated and expanded previous legislation on housing and sanitation, noxious trades and factory conditions. During this same time period, John Snow documented the importance of clean water to public health. Despite these efforts, however, cities like London continued to have higher mortality rates than rural areas until late Victorian times.

Initially, physicians at this time were not equipped to handle the serious epidemics that were arising out of the poor health conditions of the time. They argued over the epidemics' origins, the appropri...

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...olera found? In overcrowded filthy conditions, water supplies, unwholesome food etc. He was only one of the many authors telling the stories of his time.


Dickens, Charles, Dombey and Son. First published in 1848, Reprinted in Penguin Classics in 1985.

Gaskell, Elizabeth, Mary Barton. First published in 1848. Reprinted in Penguin Classics in 1985.

Pelling, Margaret, Cholera, Fever, and English Medicine 1825-1865. Oxford University Press, 1978.

Russell, WMS, Biology and Human Affairs: A British Social Hygiene Council Publication. "Biology and Literature in Britain, 1500-1900. . . " Pages 50-72.

Smith, F.B., The People's Health 1830-1910. Published by Holmes and Meier, 1979, New York, New York. USA.

Williams, Guy, The Age of Miracles, Medicine and Surgery in the Nineteenth Century. Academy Chicago Publishers, Chicago, Ill., 1987.

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