The Industrial Revolution Inadvertently Led to Advances in Medical Practice

Section One: Dated Primary Sourcesa-img47642_full

The Industrial Revolution spurred a great increase in the amount of goods being produced and ultimately increased the quality of life for citizens of countries where it had taken place. This benefit was only achieved after many dismal years of trial and error. The urbanization taking place in England was necessary for labor requirements of factories to be met but did not come without a whole list of problems. The increasing amount of people crammed into small living quarters increased the amount of human filth and highlighted the consequences of un-sanitazed living. The problem of diseases, such as small pox, typhoid, tuberculoses and cholera, was amplified as more human contact provided more opportunities for these diseases to spread. As a result the medical community would have to advance it’s understanding of disease in order to address the growing problem. This archived poster posted in Shrewsbury, England in 1849 highlights the large misconceptions of how disease, in particular cholera, spread and was treated during the Industrial Revolution taking place in 19th. century England. The poster warns that lying on “bare ground” or sleeping in “open air” are to blame for the contraction of Cholera. It makes a bold claim that those who are suffering from a lack of self confidence or are otherwise “easily alarmed” are more prone to the disease than those who “live in confidence and are of good courage.” By the end of the century important scientists and doctors such as, Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch, John Snow and Edward Jenner, provided insights into the way germs contributed to disease as well as how they could be protected against.


The poster above is a warning poster after Dr. John Snow developed his “germ theory” and realized that cholera as a result of tainted drinking water containing microbes which caused the illness. This image was posted on a social media website called “Pinterest” it was part of a “board” named “History of Medicine.” The poster displays how the discovery of germs and their correlation with illness was spurred out of the rising contractions of cholera as a result of the Industrial Revolution.

Section 2: Words, Image and Map


This screen shot of a word map from the Voyant tool shows the correlation of disease and the industrial revolution. The text was an analysis article written to explore the link between urbanization and the rise of disease. Major diseases such as smallpox, cholera, tuberculosis and typhoid are listed which were coincidentally the target of the medical community’s research during the 19th century.


This image serves as a primary source displaying what a city in 19th century England would have looked like. As seen in the photo, the streets are filled with trash which is sitting in fluid of some kind, either water or sewage. Living conditions like this would cause a rapid increase in the contraction of deadly disease and spur the medical community to look for solutions and understanding of this problem.


This is a map created by a 19th century physician named Thomas Shapter. He was a physician in the town of Exeter, England. The map shows the recorded cases, marked by a red dot, in the city  during the 1830’s. Although the Industrial Revolution did not affect the growth of Exeter as much as London the map provides an insight as to where cholera was likely to spread. The red dots are concentrated in the city’s center where a large number of people would have lived and worked. The disease was allowed to spread through tainted water and the unsanitary methods of waste disposal.

Section 3: Data and Timeline


This graph shows the decline of the mortality rate in England as diseases were identified, germ theory was developed and proven and sanitation and sewage procedures were implemented in large cities. It was in the 1860’s that Louis Pasteur proved the existence of germs and the benefits of pasteurization. The graph reflects the importance of this discovery as the mortality rate starts and continues on this decline as the knowledge was spread and procedures were implemented.

This timeline shows key dates during 19th century England that correlate with both the medical revolution taking place and the Industrial Revolution. Dates such as 1844 when “Friedrich Engels publishes his observations of the negative effects of industrialization in The Condition of the Working-Class in England,” and 1848 when the “British government sets up the General Board of Health to investigate sanitary conditions, setting up local boards to ensure safe water in cities.” This recognition of the disease problem caused by the Industrial Revolution, and the subsequent attempts by the government to discover the causes and treatments for the outbreaks, reflect the correlation between the Industrial Revolution and the medical community’s response to the growing problem. This response resulted in a greater understanding of disease and the overall advancement in the way we keep our living quarters as well as treat disease.


Dated Posters:

“Cholera.” Shropshirearchivezoneorguk. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2016. Link

Hemmings, Amanda. “Cholera Prevention Poster.” Pinterest. N.p., 2014.                          Web. 14 Dec. 2016. Link

Article analyzed with Voyant tool:

“Muck and Brass: The Industrial Town.” Making the Modern World – Muck and Brass: The Industrial Town. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2016.  Link


Cornforth, David. “The Cholera Outbreak of 1832.” Exeter Memories – Cholera in 1832. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2016. Link


“The Sanitary Idea (1850-1875).” The Sanitary Idea (1850-1875). N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2016. Link


“Timeline of the Industrial Revolution in England.” Untitled Document. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Dec. 2016. Link


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