top-rated free essay

Health and Sanitation in the Victorian Era

By brittursatchky Aug 20, 2013 856 Words
Do you ever wonder what health and sanitation were like long ago? The truth is conditions and beliefs were radically different than today. People believed many superstitions over facts, didn’t support hospitals, and thought that being dissected for scientific study was the worst fate for a soul. Nonetheless, health and science made great advancements and discoveries in the Victorian Era. By the 19th century medicine made ample advances through the work of doctors and scientists that refused to use pseudoscience to answer medical and scientific questions. Surgeon John Hunter developed the medical community’s understanding of how peoples’ bodies’ organs affect their health. Physician Edward Jenner’s studies allowed for doctors to trace various sicknesses back to their true causes. A vaccine to help fight small pox was discovered. Chemist Sir Humphrey Davy found one could inhale nitrous oxide gas to become unconscious during surgery, and two great discoveries in science were made: antiseptics and anesthetics (Hughes 63). Hospitals also made great advancements in the Victorian Era. Many hospitals were used, not to treat the ill or injured and then release them, but as a place for the insane, poor, drunk and contagious to be left. They were unsanitary and overcrowded with limited staff, but because of increased public awareness and funding between 1700 and 1825, 154 new hospitals were opened in Great Britain to diagnose and treat patients. Cottage hospitals were also built in more rural areas to complement the large hospitals in the cities. The first one opened in Surrey in 1859. By 1880 every county had a hospital like this, increasing the need for doctors (Hughes 64). While there were many medical students, there was a decrease in the number of bodies for dissection (cadavers). Being dissected was looked at as an end for the worst kinds of people. Surgeons had to resort to body snatchers or “resurrection men,” who met the need for cadavers by stealing fresh bodies. They were paid huge sums of money. Because of this, grave robbers turned to other ways to get bodies, like murder. Body Snatchers Burke and Hare became known for this. They would kill the elderly and incompetent (Hughes 65). The 19th century also saw an increase in patent medicines and the beginning of pharmacy. Jesse Boots opened ten herbal shops in Nottingham. In 1892 he started to manufacture drugs on a wider scale. By the time he died in 1931, his company, Boots the Chemist, had over 1,000 outlets. Thomas Beechman created Beechman’s pills, which contained laxative properties. He was one of the first businessmen to advertise largely. In 1891 his son spent about 120,000 lbs. per annum on ads. The total business was about 700 pounds (Hughes 66). In contrast, personal healthcare remained stagnant in the Victorian Era. Standards differed greatly between men and women, and between the upper and lower classes. Some people believed that plentiful energy and a healthy appetite weren’t “lady-like,” so women were usually weak and anemic because of their lack of iron-rich food. In addition, red meat and eggs weren’t available to lower class families, and the rich usually didn’t eat fresh vegetables. Growth was often stunted by diet. Health in lower and upper class families varied deeply. Girls from lower class families were three inches shorter and eight pounds lighter than girls in upper class families (Mitchell 191). Even toward the end of the Victorian Era, infant mortality was about ten times as high as it is today in industrialized countries. In Liverpool in 1899 the rate of infant mortality was 136 per 1,000 in the upper class areas, 274 per 1,000 in working classes, and 509 per 1,000 in the poorest slums. Infant mortality and infanticide were often confused. Cruel reports were written about lower class women and their inability to take care of their children when, in fact, most babies died because of being born premature or underweight. Most pregnant women were undernourished and continued to work hard while pregnant. Many also had Rickets, which caused a woman’s pelvis to deform and narrow. A great number of pregnant women were also anemic. All of these factors contributed to seriously low birth rates. Even in the upper classes, one in ten babies died before reaching their first birthday (Mitchell 192). However, some progress was made in personal healthcare. With the public advancement of health care, people began to trust doctors and hospitals more, and became slightly more aware of new medical discoveries and information. This helped lead to today’s frame of mind. People today are willing to accept medical beliefs over superstition. People are also more in-tune with their bodies and its functions, which was uncommon in the Victorian Era. Hospitals weren’t supported by people or the government, as they are today. One example is how people’s view of autopsies and dissection has changed. This was looked at as the worst fate for a soul, but now people volunteer to be dissected and families’ ask for autopsies on a regular basis. During the Victorian Era doctors discovered their scientific prowess and people began to realize the benefits of medicine.

Cite This Document

Related Documents

  • sanitation

    ...Sanitation is the hygienic means of promoting health through prevention of human contact with the hazards of wastes as well as the treatment and proper disposal of sewage wastewater or more specifically to the food service world, the hygienic measures for ensuring food safety. Figuratively speaking, Sanitation has its hand in just about all asp...

    Read More
  • Victorian Era

    ...The Victorian Period Queen Victoria The Victorian period formally begins in 1837 (the year Victoria became Queen) and ends in 1901 (the year of her death).  As a matter of expediency, these dates are sometimes modified slightly.  1830 is usually considered the end of the Romantic period in Britain, and thus makes a convenient starting ...

    Read More
  • Victorian Era

    ...Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the Victorian Context Traditional social structure • Different social classes can be (and were by the classes themselves) distinguished by inequalities in such areas as power, authority, wealth, working and living conditions, life-styles, life-span, education, religion, and culture. Working class – physica...

    Read More
  • Disease and Treatments in the Victorian Era

    ...Treatments in the Victorian Era By: Will Kraemer September 28, 2011 Outline I- Introduction: the thoughts and ideas about diseases. II- Body: living conditions/ why they got sick 1. How the filth and grime led to diseases 2. Home-remedies 3. Death III- Body: Diseases 1. Cholera 2. Tuberculosis 3. T...

    Read More
  • New Women of the Victorian Era

    ...By: Teddy Ruxpin 13MAY98 "New Women" of the Victorian Era The Victorian era brought about many changes throughout Great Britain. Man was searching for new avenues of enlightenment. The quest for knowledge and understanding became an acceptable practice throughout much of the scientific community. It was becoming accepted, and in many ways ex...

    Read More
  • Victorian Era Literature

    ...a time of great social struggles for the poor. Yet a different story was occurring for the middle class, the higher classes where in a time of “relative political and social stability” (Gray 783). These conditions helped shape and greatly impacted the novel writing of the era. In the midsts of the reign of Queen Victoria, the poor went th...

    Read More
  • Women in Victorian Era

    ...During the Victorian era, women were viewed as the very opposite of what a man ought to be. In the words of John Stuart Mill, who published a criticism of the way society differentiated between males and females “The female sex was brought up to believe that its ‘ideal of character’ was the very opposite to that of men’s ‘not self-will...

    Read More
  • Victorian Era Education

    ...Victorian Era Education    In the novel ​ Great Expectations​  by Charles Dickens, the protagonist Pip says, “I took the  opportunity of being alone in the court­yard, to look at my coarse hands and my common  boots,”(Dickens, 85)​ .​  Born from a lower class, Pip had sense of lack infe...

    Read More

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.