Cleansing the City: Sanitary Geographies in Victorian London

Overview


Cleansing the City: Sanitary Geographies in Victorian London explores not only the challenges faced by reformers as they strove to clean up an increasingly filthy city but the resistance to their efforts. Beginning in the 1830s, reform-minded citizens, under the banner of sanitary improvement, plunged into London’s dark and dirty spaces and returned with the material they needed to promote public health legislation and magnificent projects of sanitary engineering. Sanitary reform, however, was not always met ...
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Overview


Cleansing the City: Sanitary Geographies in Victorian London explores not only the challenges faced by reformers as they strove to clean up an increasingly filthy city but the resistance to their efforts. Beginning in the 1830s, reform-minded citizens, under the banner of sanitary improvement, plunged into London’s dark and dirty spaces and returned with the material they needed to promote public health legislation and magnificent projects of sanitary engineering. Sanitary reform, however, was not always met with unqualified enthusiasm. While some improvements, such as slum clearances, the development of sewerage, and the embankment of the Thames, may have made London a cleaner place to live, these projects also destroyed and reshaped the built environment, and in doing so, altered the meanings and experiences of the city.

From the novels of Charles Dickens and George Gissing to anonymous magazine articles and pamphlets, resistance to reform found expression in the nostalgic appreciation of a threatened urban landscape and anxiety about domestic autonomy in an era of networked sanitary services. Cleansing the City emphasizes the disruptions and disorientation occasioned by purification—a process we are generally inclined to see as positive. By recovering these sometimes oppositional, sometimes ambivalent responses, Michelle Allen elevates a significant undercurrent of Victorian thought into the mainstream and thus provides insight into the contested nature of sanitary modernization.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Professor Allen is to be
congratulated on rescuing
those who had a pessimistic
view of reform, or who opposed
it in principle, from obscurity
or the facile dismissal of scholars. She investigates
what is clearly a powerful and
recurring undercurrent
in Victorian thought and
elevates it into
the mainstream.” —Anthony Wohl, author of
Endangered Lives: Public Health in
Victorian and Edwardian England
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780821417706
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 1/22/2008
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Michelle Allen is an assistant professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy. She has published an edition of Lorna Doone, by R. D. Blackmore.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations     vii
Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction: The Sanitary City: The "Effacing Fingers" of Reform     1
The London Sewer: Purification and the Experience of Urban Disorder     24
"Thames Fever": The Contest for the River in the Metropolitan Imagination     54
A More Expansive Reach: The Geography of the Thames in Our Mutual Friend     86
No Space for the Poor: Disillusionment with Reform in the 1880s     115
Intransigence and Limited Mobility: Competing Geographies in The Nether World     140
Afterword     168
Notes     177
Bibliography     203
Index     217
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