Cholera: Shaping Social Attitudes and Science in Government

Topics: Sociology, Cholera, Rutgers University Pages: 6 (2111 words) Published: February 12, 2013


During much of the 1800's and the 1900's Cholera was a disease which had many similar characteristics of the plague that affected Western civilization. Cholera had a profound affect on not only social and cultural attitudes, but religious ideas, medical thought, and the role of science in the government. Many historians, scientists, and doctors all have different views on how Cholera was spread, and where this execrable disease came from. How Cholera shaped social attitudes at that time, can still be seen in how social attitudes are shaped in modern day society. Cholera also shaped science in the government, and especially emphasized on sanitation, which can also be seen in modern day society. Without the epidemic of Cholera, how would life be different today? Would there be segregation of social classes? Would sanitation be important? Most likely, yes they would, but Cholera is an interesting case to study when looking at these questions. Social Thought During the Cholera Years

Throughout the many years Cholera was prominent in many areas, social turmoil was at an all time high. Different social groups as well as social classes were experiencing feelings of distrust, anger, and fear. “...almost before cholera even appeared-Europeans and Americans had associated cholera with social class and economic background.”[1] Poor social classes were frightened that their traditional ways of life would be violated because there were many arguments made that Cholera was associated with the poor. For example, Rene Villerme believed that poverty was the cause of disease.[2] This led the poor social class to not be able to trust anyone. The poor especially did not have any trust in doctors. Their fear was that doctors were the agents of evoking something that could potentially hurt them. Because of their distrust and fear of doctors, the poor social class despised isolation hospitals. A quote that came from poor people in Manchester was “To the hospital, pull it to the ground.”[3] This quote clearly shows the resentment that the poor social class had towards hospitals. Threats, like the quote above, made doctors and hospitals feel that they were under attack. Next, the middle class feared Cholera as a social stability threat. They were fearful of the economy being disrupted as well as an increase of anger being provoked. Their fear was accurate considering that riots did break out in some areas. For example, in Russia, riots began to break out when there were many police enforcing isolation. [4] It is quite apparent that during the 1800's and 1900's when Cholera outbreaks were abundant, social attitudes were shaped in an overall negative way. Correlation of Social Thought Shaping Modern Society

In modern society, most humans have encounters with many, many different people and social classes. Do you trust every person you have an encounter with? Of course not, especially if you have ever been hurt by someone you thought you could trust. That is how the poor social class felt when they were hurt by doctors. Today, trust is one of the fundamental parts to having a relationship with someone. With trust being a big issue to the poor social class during the Cholera outbreaks, it has had a part in the shaping of modern society issues of trust. When people today see that people during the 1800's and 1900's could not trust doctors, who are supposed to be there to help and save lives, then that gives the modern society the question of who can they trust? Today, you see a lot of trust issues between boyfriends/girlfriends, spouses, co-workers, politics, etc. There is a clear correlation of how trust in past events have shaped modern society, and possibly even made it worse. Next, anger is an issue in modern society, as well. Anger can turn into violence very easily....
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