The Sanitary Movement and the 'Filth Theory of Disease' 
The Sanitary Movement and the 'Filth Theory of Disease'
by Yale / Frank Snowden
Video Lecture 11 of 26
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Date Added: June 18, 2011

Lecture Description

The sanitary movement was an approach to public health first developed in England in the 1830s and '40s. With increasing industrialization and urbanization, the removal of filth from towns and cities became a major focus in the struggle against infectious diseases. As pioneered by Edwin Chadwick, the sanitary movement also embraced an explicit political objective, according to which urban cleansing took on a figurative as well as a literal sense, and was seen as a potential solution to the threat posed by the "dangerous classes." European cities followed suit, with Paris and Naples embarking on wholesale rebuilding projects, necessitating large-scale state intervention. Although these technological reforms marked an undeniable step forward for public health, they often also entailed the exclusion of other strategies, such as progressive economic and educational reforms.

Reading assignment:
Snow, Snow on Cholera

Course Index

Course Description

This course consists of an international analysis of the impact of epidemic diseases on western society and culture from the bubonic plague to HIV/AIDS and the recent experience of SARS and swine flu. Leading themes include: infectious disease and its impact on society; the development of public health measures; the role of medical ethics; the genre of plague literature; the social reactions of mass hysteria and violence; the rise of the germ theory of disease; the development of tropical medicine; a comparison of the social, cultural, and historical impact of major infectious diseases; and the issue of emerging and re-emerging diseases.

Course Structure:
This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2010.

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