Public health and social justice in the age of Chadwick : Britain, 1800-1854


Public health and social justice in the age of Chadwick : Britain, 1800-1854

Christopher Hamlin

(Cambridge history of medicine / editors, Charles Webster and Charles Rosenberg)

Cambridge University Press, 1998

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Bibliography: p. [342]-357

Includes index



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 sewage 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 fitted the political needs of the much-hated Poor Law Commission and of Whig and Tory governments, each seeking some antidote to revolutionary Chartism. 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.


  • 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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