Public Health and Social Justice in the Age of Chadwick: Britain, 1800-1854 / Edition 1

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The 1830s and 1840s are the formative years of modern public health in Britain, when the poor law bureaucrat Edwin Chadwick conceived his vision of public health through public works and began the campaign for the construction of the kinds of water and sewerage works that ultimately became the standard components of urban infrastructure throughout the developed world. This book first explores that vision and campaign against the backdrop of the great "condition-of-England" questions of the period, of what rights and expectations working people could justifiably have in regard to political participation, food, shelter and conditions of work. It examines the ways Chadwick's sanitarianism fit the political needs of the much-hated Poor Law Commission and of Whig and Tory governments, each seeking some antidote to revolutionary Charitism. It then reviews the Chadwickians' efforts to solve the host of problems they met in trying to implement the sanitary idea: of what responsibilities central and local units of government, and private contractors, were to have; of how townspeople could be persuaded to embark on untried public technologies; of where the new public health experts were to come from; and of how elegant technical designs were to be fitted to the unique social, political and geographic circumstances of individual towns. Rejecting the view that Chadwick's program was a simple response to an obvious urban problem Professor Hamlin argues that at the time a "public health" focusing narrowly on sanitary public works represented a retreat of public medicine from involvement with the great social issues of the Industrial Revolution. In exploring the views of medical men who were critical of Chadwick, Hamlin suggests the parameters of a public health that might have been, in which concern for health and well-being becomes the foundation of a public medicine that is a principal guarantor of social justice. This book offers modern public heatlh professionals elements of a forgotten professional heritage that might be useful in responding to the bewildering range of health problems we now confront.

The book contains black-and-white illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Christopher Hamlin's overlooked but fascinating Public Health and Social Justice in the Age of Chadwick: Britain, 1800-1854 explores a period often considered the golden age of public health, and provides some perspective on the politics surrounding the sanitarian campaign." The New York Review

"In my view, his purpose in this well-researched and written book is admirable. He contributes an important reassessment to the history of a central period of British public health, one which is still widely cited on the international as well as the national stage. He opens up important dimensions to the 'politics of expertise' and to the rise of science as an apparent neutral authority in policy making. He also reminds contemporary public health practitioners that the debates of the mid-nineteenth century represent a set of choices reflecting profound and permanent questions which still need, or ought, to be confronted." The Journal of Modern History

"Christopher Hamlin's Public Health and Social Justice in the Age of Chadwick is a welcome new look at the manner in which mid-nineteenth-century cities in Great Britain perceived and acted upon the unhealthy conditions that prevailed in them. Public Health and Social Justice in the Age of Chadwick should be read by historians of technology, the city, and public policy on both sides of the Atlantic. Hamlin succeeds triumphantly in demonstrating the complex history of public health in nineteenth-century British cities. Moreover, he places this subject in its dynamic political, economic, administrative and intellectual climate." Joanne Abel Goldman, John Hopkins University Press

"Hamlin's scrupulous examination of Edwin Chadwick's sanitation campaign attacks the determinist idea that Victorians constructed sewers and water supply systems as a direct and obvious response to pollution-induced disease....well worth studying. The book succeeds as history, as social commentary, as a treatise on sanitation, and even as intellectual biography." Dale H. Porter, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"[Hamlin] brings to the topic new analytical tools which he uses to reinterpret well-worked sources, and this in turn poens up new sources and issues. Hamlin crafts all this into an engaging narrative that all historians will read with profit." Canadian Journal of History

"Christopher Hamlin's book offers some new information, but its main claim to attention is a fresh interpretation. The book is well organized and written in lively prose. It is an argumentative account that makes some sweeping assertions and invites debate. In short, it is engaging and stimulating. It has the considerable merit of demonstrating that we need to know more about early Victorians other than Chadwick: those who came to similar policy solutions from different premises, and those urban reformers who proved to be Chadwick's most important allies." Bulletin of the History of Medicine

"...a major contribution to the history's of public health." Anne Crother, American Historical Review

"engagingly written new book...There is much in this argument which persuades. The subject is a major one and the skills deployed in recreating the full dimensions of the debate which Chadwick "won" are impressive, especially so in the author's location and analysis of medically related literature." Victorian Studies

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521583633
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2004
  • Series: Cambridge Studies in the History of Medicine Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 380
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. Health as Money; 2. A Political Medicine; 3. Prelude to the Sanitary Report, 1833–1838; 4. The Making of the Sanitary Report, 1839–1842; 5. The Sanitary Report; 6. Chadwick's Evidence: The Local Reports; 7. Sanitation Triumphant: The Health of Towns Commission, 1843–1845; 8. The Politics of Public Health, 1841–1848; 9. Selling Sanitation: the Inspectors and the Local Authorities, 1848-1854; 10. Lost in the Pipes; Conclusion; Bibliography.

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