Urbanization and Public Health

Madison Wilkes


By 1850, for the first time in world history, more people in Great Britain lived in cities than in rural areas. Europe and North America industrialized, they too continued along this path of urbanization. By 1920, most of the Americans lived in the city instead of rural areas. It continued throughout the 19th century. The city of London grew from about 2 million to 5 million from 1840-1880. The cool climate is what brought in more urbanization because it was perfect for the Textile Industry and England was located near the coalfields. The process of Urbanization sparked the new popular industries by concentrating workers and factories together.

Even though Urbanization seemed like a good thing there were some negative impacts such as; working-class neighborhoods were bleak, crowded, dirty, and polluted. There were also huge environmental hazards.

Public Health

In the beginning of the 19th century there was urban overcrowding, poor diets, poor sanitation, and essentially medieval medical remedies all contributed to very poor public health for the majority of English people .The packed and poor working-class neighborhoods contributed to the fast spread of disease they were filthy, roads were muddy and lacked sidewalks. Houses were built touching each other, leaving no room for ventilation. The worst thing was the homes lacked toilets and sewage systems, and as a result, drinking water sources, such as wells, which caused them to be contaminated with disease. Some of the diseases were Cholera, tuberculosis, typhus, typhoid, and influenza ravaged through new industrial towns.People who received medical treatment in the first half of the 19th century likely worsened under the care of trained doctors and untrained quacks. Doctors still used remedies popular during the Middle Ages, such as bloodletting and leeching. They also recommended heavy use of vomiting and laxatives, both of which severely dehydrated patients and could contribute to early death especially to infants and children whose bodies would lose water fast. Poor nutrition, disease, lack of sanitation, and harmful medical care in these urban areas had a devastating effect on the average life expectancy of British people in the first half of the 19th century.