From the Notebook: Victorians and the Environment

By the High Victorian era, which describes the 1870s and beyond, many activists and doctors were starting to connect the welfare and livelihood of Londoners to their environment around them. In the 1860s, the Thames in London was so fetid, so polluted, that Parliament scheduled its activities so the smell wouldn’t sit stagnant in the heat. It was too hot to sit in the rooms with the windows shut, but with the windows open, the smell was so unbearable that men compared it to actual torture. Cholera, spread by bacteria in liquids, was a great epidemic in the 19th Century because of the sanitary conditions.

William Farr was able to prove that contaminated water spread the disease, rather than the popular belief in miasma. As such, water and sewage treatment facilities were put in place, though not in time to prevent a cholera outbreak in London’s East End, where all of the manufacturing plants were.

By the late 1870s, Londoners could punt on the Thames, with the river actually becoming a tourist event rather than a place to studiously avoid… Ten years earlier, one saw dead fish and the occasional person, smelled garbage and human waste; it was a mess.

Luckily, the Victorians, with their obsession with cleanliness (as it is close to Godliness), turned their eye to their environment and started to make a change.

This entry was part of Blog Action day.
Blog Action Day 2007