The industrial revolution refers to the economic changes that took place in regards to the work and life of the British people during the 18th-19th century. A time where changes in manufacturing and transportation began with things being made by hand but instead made using machines in larger-scale factories. It was an extremely difficult time for the working class as due to factories being made many business’ needed workers and this lead to low wages as people were willing to work! Something Karl Marx rebuked and defined as exploitation. (See my blog on Karl Marx for more info)
This was a time where: pollution, overcrowding, diseases, waste disposal, poor quality housing and hardly any fresh water were prevalent. Builders were not diligent when building homes for the poor installing no cavities in place to keep out the damp and wet weather, the walls often cracked as the foundations were weak.There was no lavatory’s or kitchen present, no hall in the houses as well as no storage space.
That is not as bad as it get’s, in fact there was often a pigsty outside of their front door along with human manure; soil men often took out the waste but in poorer districts the waste was normally heaped in a large pile close to the homes of the residents which is referred to as a cesspit. The liquid from the waste heaps seeped down into the earth and contaminated the water supplies and sometimes the ceespit would be located against the wall of the house. This carried disease-causing germs into the water. The most frightening disease of all was cholera, but the cause was unknown at the time.
The cholera epidemic was caused by the microbes in the excreta from patients who had this disease. It was possible to catch by sharing laboratories as well as by drinking the water which was contaminated by excrement. But how did sewage find it’s way into the water you ask? This was due to pumping sewage into the river water, which was then used for drinking. Statics show that nearly half of the people who caught the disease died. In addition to cholera, there was also the smallpox disease thanks to inoculation of the disease it began to die out. Sanitation at that time was extremely bad there was another disease on the rise, that was Typhoid which lingered in croydon in 1852 as it was found in the water supplies. The poor were more susceptible to catching the disease due to being carried by lice, as a result poorer families which were normally dirty caught it. Tuberculous was also extremely common, they were likely to catch the disease if they were malnourished, under mental and physical stress, living in dirty environments as well as being in contact with someone who had the disease, once again affecting the poor resulting in one third of people had dying during that time period.
Why were the precautions not in place ? Pasteur did not discover microbes until 1864, so until then what caused these disease were pure speculation. During that time, they had believed that smell is what caused it but most definitely not the water as the Board of Health has advised people that the water was safe. So Edwin Chadwick’s view on miasma (smell that cause diseases), concluded that Tuberculosis was developed by overwork and stress. As many workers worked in stuffy environments with half dying this concluded that air must of been the cause. The issue with Chadwick’s theories was that he believed all diseases were the same and that they were spread by the foul smell. He has then hastened the Health board to a very bad decision which was to flush the sewage into the river every week and soon the organisms found in the diseases were spread into the river in great numbers spreading like wildfire, 15000 people dying by the end of 1849.
Although a bad decision they were on to something here, the miasmatic theory proved that to get rid of the smell you have to get rid of your dirt. So getting rid of the germs significantly eliminated bacteria!
I hope you enjoyed this brief introduction-
“Social Problems of the Indutrial Revolution” by P.F.SPEED