Monday, March 28, 2011

Sanitation in 19th Century Europe

The industrial revolution in Europe attracted workers to urban centers, creating large, overcrowded slums in the cities. Wealthier citizen fled to residential areas outside the cities, abandoning their houses. The poor moved in, living often in homes vacated by the rich. Rooms were continually divided, making way in a structure for more families. Floors were added with low ceilings. Stairs frequently were only ladders.
Few cesspools were in use, and water was only available in the streets. This contributed to frequent outbreaks of cholera and tuberculosis in the slums, where many people lived in houses with narrow streets and little sunlight.

Gradually, fountains, sewers, urinals, and fire hydrants were constructed. By the 1860s, horse drawn tipcarts were used to collect garbage from sidewalks, where it had been dumped the night before for collection.

In the 1880s cesspools became more popular, sometimes by decree, and in spite of organized protests by cesspool cleaners and some unlikely colleagues, medical men. Louis Pasteur wanted sewage to be dumped into the sea because he believed cesspool treatment did not kill enough of the organisms that caused infection.

When garbage cans came into use, outbreaks of typhoid and cholera became less frequent and killed fewer people. In the late 19th century, as the benefits of fresh water, sewers, and garbage collection became common knowledge, health and life expectancy improved dramatically.


Anonymous said...

Really cool capsule about this topic, Joyce! Care to share your resources? Always looking to improve my research bookshelf.
Joy Held
WriterWellness, A Writer's Path to Health and Creativity

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi, writerwellness: I snooped around your blog. Nice stuff there, plus I'm a huge advocate of hatha yoga. Re sources, My WIP is set in Paris and Germany during mid-19th century, and I had piles of notes, so no telling where I got this from. I read stuff here and there and make notes. It may have been from something online, I just can't recall, but it's probably from several sources. Thanks for stopping by, and I'm glad I found your blog.

Caroline Clemmons said...

I posted to your facebook page, but realize I should have posted here. You and I have some of the same interests. I did a post on trains for this month. I have already written one on sanitation/bathroom plumbing for next month.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Caroline: I guess almost anything about the way people lived in times past is interesting to anyone who loves history, so it's natural that our paths would cross. Thanks so much for stopping by. I enjoy your comments and will have to check out your blog postings!