Skip to main content

1842 Sanitary Report

In July 1842, the most important 19th Century publication on social reform was released, titled, 'Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain'. This enquiry into sanitation was the brain-child of lawyer, Edwin Chadwick (1800-1890). He led a team of commissioners travelling the country trying to document the lives of the poor. Earlier in his career, Chadwick had worked under the reformist, Jeremy Bentham & his philosophy of 'greater happiness' was a seminal influence. The Report was initially classified as a 'fever inquiry' as a result of frequent cholera epidemics suffered by the lower classes. The great innovation of the Report was the use of statistical information to counter-balance the mass of descriptive evidence highlighting the life expectancy variations caused by class or residence. This damming indictment of society was a cause of great debate & six years later the Public Health Act was passed.