Monday, February 29, 2016

Riots in the Age of Cholera

I won't pretend that I undertook hundreds of hours of extensive research when I created my Maps in the Age of Cholera story map. However I did read some accounts about the cholera outbreaks in England during the nineteenth century.

One of the things that I found most interesting in this research was the historical reports of the cholera riots. After cholera reached Britain in the early nineteenth century there was a widespread belief, particularly among the worst hit working classes, that the response of the politicians and medical profession to the outbreak of cholera was woefully inadequate.

Distrust of doctors was fairly common in the UK at the time of the 1832 cholera outbreaks. Just four years earlier, in 1828, Burke and Hare had been arrested for the murders of 16 people. Burke and Hare had for ten months been killing people and selling the corpses so that they could be used in medical dissections.

Distrust of doctors, alongside the devastating affects of cholera on the poorest neighborhoods, contributed to a febrile atmosphere in many English cities. The result was the cholera riots which took place in a number of English towns and cities.

Dean Kirby's book 'Angel Meadow: Victorian Britain’s Most Savage Slum' has just been published. In part of this historical account of a Liverpool slum Kirby looks at the cholera riot which took place in the city in 1832. He has also created a story map examining the cholera outbreak and explaining the causes of the subsequent riot.

Angel Meadow: The 1832 Cholera Riot Revealed maps the first few cases of the cholera outbreak in Liverpool. It also explores the Liverpool cholera riot. One of the victims of the outbreak was a three year old boy called John Brogan. Before John's family could collect his body from the hospital a doctor removed and stole his head, putting a brick inside the coffin instead.

At John's funeral, when it was discovered that the corpse was missing its head, the family became a little upset. Thousands of residents in Angel Meadow were also a little upset and subsequently set upon the hospital and the local police.

You can read more about the riot, and find out what happened to John Brogan's head, in Dean Kirby's story map of the 1832 Liverpool Cholera Riot.

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