Great Filth

Great Filth

The War Against Disease in Victorian England

eBook - 2011
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How the Victorians struggled to overcome diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and scarlet fever in their cities This is the fascinating story of how a small group of dedicated individuals fought opposition from politicians, taxpayers, and often their own colleagues to overcome disease in overwhelming numbers, and make the country a safer place for everyone to live. Victorian Britain was the world's industrial powerhouse, supplying a global demand for manufactured goods. As it changed from an agricultural to an industrial economy, people swarmed into the towns and cities. Overcrowding and filthy living conditions were a recipe for disaster, and diseases such as cholera, typhoid, scarlet fever, smallpox, and puerperal (childbed) fever were a part of everyday life for town- and city-dwellers. However, thanks to a dedicated band of doctors, nurses, midwives, scientists, engineers, and social reformers, by the time the Victorian era became the Edwardian, they were almost eradicated, and no longer a constant source of fear.
Publisher: [Place of publication not identified] : The History Press, [2011]
ISBN: 9780752474649
Branch Call Number: 362.10943 Ha
Description: 1 online resource (256 pages)
Additional Contributors: Freading (Firm)


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Jan 14, 2011

This book is best summed up in the final three sentences of its conclusion: "When Victoria came to the throne, the average age of death of subjects fell in the late thirties. When she died in 1901, the average age of death was in the early fifties. All the people whose lives have been examined in this volume contributed to that improvement: politicians, social reformers, doctors, scientists, midwives; but especially the engineers."

As a result, this book reads rather like a series of mini-biographies, and there are a lot of them! I found the chapter on midwifery the most informative. I had a vague idea of the causes of child-bed fever and, as a family historian, was already aware of the high incidences for both infant and mother mortality. However, I was not aware that the death rate for newly-delivered mothers actually rose in the latter part of the nineteenth century due to mothers going to hospitals rather than staying at home to deliver. "Doctors are gentlemen and a gentleman's hands are clean," said a prominent doctor huffily when it was suggested that medical staff should wash their hands after performing an autopsy then attending a birth.

An interesting Victorian patchwork of disease, sanitation, childbirth, and, uh, sewage.


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