Central and local influences on public health reform in mid-Victorian Liverpool (1830-1875)

McGrath, Thomas (1997) Central and local influences on public health reform in mid-Victorian Liverpool (1830-1875). Masters thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The aim of this thesis has been to show how important influences affected the level of disease in Liverpool, the administration of its public health and the local/central relationship in the nineteenth century, The growth of the port led to the casualisation of the workforce which encouraged a huge army of unskilled immigrants into the town.
Poverty was often widespread at times of economic depression which was not alleviated by the New Poor Law. Malnourishment weakened resistance to disease and overcrowding encouraged its spread. These factors, combined with the rapidly deteriorating sanitary conditions, led to Liverpool having the highest death rate in the country in the I 840s with infant mortality invariably half of total deaths. The local authority, influenced by local and national reformers, carried out sanitary reform to try and reduce disease and improve the health of the poor. Sanatarians were appointed to administer the service and they also tried to direct the policy of the Council. These professional officers, with the support of the councillors, were convinced that their measures would reduce mortality and have economic benefits for the community. When poverty increased in the I 860s, the death rate was as high as ever and their efforts seemed to have been in vain. Opposition grew to further reforms, especially those affecting housing and the Medical Officer of Health faced overwhelming criticism from
members of the Health Committee. The professional officers provided a link with the central boards throughout most of the Mid-Victorian period. The Council did not object to these contacts and were prepared to seek assistance themselves from time to time.
Occasionally Government sought advice and help from the officers and the local authority. In contrast to many other large towns, the local authority, apart from two confrontations in 1858 and 1866, seemed prepared to accept a limited form of
supervisory control from Government.

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