HIST 234 - Lecture 10 - Asiatic Cholera (II): Five Pandemics

Lecture 10 - Asiatic Cholera (II): Five Pandemics


Asiatic cholera was the most dreaded disease of the nineteenth century. While its demographic impact could not compare to that of the bubonic plague, it nonetheless held a tremendous purchase on the European social imagination. One reason for the intense fear provoked by the disease was its symptoms: not only did cholera exact a degrading and painful toll on the human body, it also struck suddenly, and was capable of reducing the seemingly healthy in a period of hours. A second major reason for the disease's significance was its overwhelming predilection for the poor: transmitted through the oral ingestion of fecal matter, cholera was intimately associated with poor diets and unsanitary living conditions. This correspondence qualifies it as an archetypical disease of poverty, and implicated cholera in the larger nineteenth-century political anxiety over the "social question."


Snow, Snow on Cholera

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