How important was the role played by Edwin Chadwick in improving public health services in towns in the nineteenth century? (16 marks)
Edwin Chadwick’s hard-work produced a mass of evidence supporting public health reforms. In 1842 his report that was published (“Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population”) influenced the government and persuaded people that reform was needed. His report’s recommendations were the basis for the 1848 Public Health Act.
However, Chadwick did have a few limitations along the way. His report in 1842 did not lead to immediate reform. The Public Health Act came 6 years later in 1848 and this act did not force councils to reform public health. His personality antagonised people and did not win support for his cause. Also, his influence faded in the 1850s.
The fact that there was the help of other individuals helped play an important role in improving public health. For example, William Farr built up evidence of the links between poverty, dirt and ill-health. After 1837, all births, deaths and marriages had to be registered and he used this information to build an accurate picture of where the death rate was highest and what people died of. Then there was John Snow who discovered that cholera was spread through dirty water and the outbreak in 1854 gave him the chance to prove his theory. His evidence was so strong that the handle of the Broad Street water pump was taken away, stopping people getting water from the pump. Snow proved that clean water was essential for preventing the spread of cholera. Finally, there was Joseph Bazalgette who was the engineer who designed and built London’s sewer system after the Great Stink of 1858. He spent his early career in the railway industry, gaining experience of large engineering products. After 1858 he planned and organised the building of London’s sewer system, the same system that is still used today. This system included 83 miles of main sewers, built underground...
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