Cholera - an introduction

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Up ] Cholera in South Wales ] What is Cholera? ] Why did Cholera spread across industrial South Wales? ] Cholera in South Wales - the events ] Evidence: A wc from the 1890s. ] Evidence: Providing a safe water supply for Swansea. ] Why Cholera spread in Wales - housing ] Why Cholera spread in Wales - attitudes to water supply ] Why Cholera spread in Wales - attitudes to rubbish and sewage ] Cholera in Wales - consequences ]  

The arrival of Cholera in Wales in the nineteenth century had a number of effects on local communities. 

Some of the effects were short term and quickly forgotten when the ravages of the epidemics had passed.  For example, attitudes to drainage and water supplies changed very gradually in the later nineteenth century and some historians believe that sanitary reform would have come about regardless of whether Cholera had arrived or not. Other people remain convinced that the Cholera epidemics of the 1850s finally made people realise how dirty their streets and towns were, and that something had to be done about them.

There was however a longer term effect on many communities. Cholera often took the breadwinner in working class families and left many widows and orphans. These most vulnerable and helpless people often ended up in the poor law system which often changed the whole direction of their lives. Cholera also established itself in the collective memory as a disease to be feared. That fear changed people's attitudes to religion, health and even immigration. A considerable amount of anti-Irish feeling was present throughout South Wales in the 1840s as it was wrongly believed that people fleeing the dreadful Irish Famine brought the disease with them. Such attitudes endured for a long time in many minds. 

Cholera came to Wales at roughly the time when written records and documentary sources started to be created in far greater amounts. So we often see the first detailed information about communities because public health records were being kept on the spread of the disease and its effect on the local economy and society. Cholera was one of the first 'media' events, its progress was recorded in the newspapers and fear of the disease ensured it was the topic of conversation at all levels of society. 

Thus Cholera can be a useful way to look at a local community because it almost always appears at a time of great change and how it was handled can tell you a great deal about our early industrial communities. 

The arrival of Cholera is an important milestone in the history of industrial Wales. The effects on local communities were often devastating. Fear of the disease was often equally destructive and the terror surrounding the disease remained in the Welsh folk memory for the whole of the nineteenth century. The  following links take you through the South Wales Cholera story. We have emphasised the three main Welsh industrial towns of Cardiff, Merthyr and Swansea, but its important to remember that many communities big and small were affected. You can use the points raised on these pages as a guide to understanding how Cholera affected your area. 
Cholera in South Wales: A basic introduction to the impact of the disease in nineteenth-century South Wales.

What is Cholera?: A description of the disease.

Why Did Cholera spread across industrial South Wales?: A exploration of the reasons why Cholera affected industrial South Wales so badly. 

Why Cholera spread in South Wales - attitudes to water supply: A look at one of the chief causes for Cholera spreading and affecting so many communities.

Why Cholera spread in South Wales - attitudes to rubbish and sewage: Another important reason why Cholera spread so rapidly. We look at some of the early attitudes to rubbish and waste disposal.

Early Welsh toilets: A drawing of a simple early Welsh toilet that could be found across South Wales in the 1820s. 

Privies, Closets and Water Closets: It is important to appreciate and understand the difference between the three kinds of toilets that are found on this page. 

Evidence: A WC from the 1890s: A documentary source showing the 'improved' type of water closet that transformed Welsh public health in the 1890s.

Evidence: Providing a safe water supply for Swansea: A documentary source showing the building of Swansea's clean water supply in the early years of the twentieth century. 

Why Cholera spread in South Wales - housing: A more detailed examination of early industrial housing problems in the South Wales area, with a look at Cardiff, Merthyr and Swansea. It is worthwhile looking at the housing pages for all three towns if you want to understand the problems fully.

Why Cholera spread in South Wales- Merthyr Housing: Go straight to the Merthyr page.

Why Cholera spread in South Wales - Cardiff Housing: Go straight to the Cardiff page. 

Why Cholera spread in South Wales - Swansea Housing: There is a considerable amount of information on Swansea housing across the website because Swansea's housing history has been more closely examined than the other towns.

Cholera in Swansea: The basic events as they affected Swansea.

Cholera in Merthyr: The basic events as they affected Merthyr.

Cholera in Cardiff: The basic events as they affected Cardiff.

Greenhill: This 1830s map of the now vanished Swansea suburb is an excellent summary of the Cholera/Public Health problem.

Water Supply

Housing problems

Toilets- always fascinating for kids!

 

 

 

 

The View for Sunday 4 December 2000

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Up ] Cholera in South Wales ] What is Cholera? ] Why did Cholera spread across industrial South Wales? ] Cholera in South Wales - the events ] Evidence: A wc from the 1890s. ] Evidence: Providing a safe water supply for Swansea. ] Why Cholera spread in Wales - housing ] Why Cholera spread in Wales - attitudes to water supply ] Why Cholera spread in Wales - attitudes to rubbish and sewage ] Cholera in Wales - consequences ]

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