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Why Did Sewage Recycling Schemes Claim a Great Deal of Attention in Mid-Victorian Britain

  • Date Submitted: 01/20/2011 12:14 PM
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Why did sewage-recycling schemes claim a great deal of attention in mid-Victorian Britain’s towns and cities?

There were several factors contributing to the amount of attention sewage-recycling schemes received. Britain was faced with a substantial increase in population and pollution resulting in higher levels of disease and mortality. There were numerous proposals regarding which recycling-scheme to use creating fierce debate on a local and national level of government, consequently impeding progression towards sanitation. Although action was delayed, by the end of the nineteenth-century, Britain witnessed vast improvements to people’s living conditions. This essay sets out to establish the significance of: living conditions before reform; medical debate; Edwin Chadwick’s role concerning reform; and political debate in assessing why the sanitary improvements received so much attention.
Living conditions and sanitation in pre-reformed early-Victorian Britain were very poor which eventually led to pressure from the society to improve the situation. The conditions were predominantly due to the impact of urbanisation. The 1851 census showed that for the first time, more people were living in urban than rural areas. This, in turn, was due to industrialisation and the need for labour. The rapidity of the population increase was unplanned which meant that by 1850, the sanitation systems struggled to cope. Cesspools were the main way to dispose of household sewage and in 1810, London was relying on about 200,000 of these. Cesspools cost approximately one shilling to empty, (a large expense for the average workman), which meant that overflowing became a common problem (Halliday, 2001, p.40). The ineffectiveness of primeval sanitation systems led to an increase in the pollution of rivers and water pumps, a shortage in safe drinking water and problems concerning how to effectively remove the industrial and human waste. The quality of drinking water was later discovered...

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