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Duration 34:38

Anxiety, dread and disease: British ports 1834-1870

As Britain’s status as the ‘workshop of the world’ grew, so did the new industrial and trading towns. Ports became densely populated and ripe for the spread of infection; once disease took hold it moved rapidly and lethally. Yet what made these ports so particularly vulnerable, in addition to the threat from within, was their high exposure to threats from abroad. While obviously of huge economic importance, a section of the ‘inside’ port town community undoubtedly perceived seafarers as ‘outside’, ‘foreign’ and a medical threat. The daily interplay between these settled and transient communities created an environment imbued with anxieties as to the nature of disease, its transmission and its treatment. Sarah Hutton is a modern domestic records specialist at The National Archives, where she has worked for five years. She is particularly interested in 19th and early 20th century health. This talk was part of our diversity week event in November, highlighting the diversity of The National Archives’ collection.