Public health - public health reforms
Students will learn about the public health reforms brought about by government and individuals in the Victorian age.
Classroom activity - speech writing
Ask your students to use the Brought to Life website to research the spread of cholera in Victorian London. Students should also look at Edwin Chadwick, John Snow, Henry Mayhew, Joseph Bazalgette, William Farr and the ‘Great Stink’ of 1858.
Based on the information they uncover, students should first imagine themselves in the role of a great Victorian advocate of public health reform and then write a speech outlining the ways in which they hope to clean up Victorian London.
The speech should start by summarising the problems that Londoners faced at this time, such as heavily polluted drinking water, before going on to detail some of the measures that could be taken to improve things, including the building of a proper sewage system. The speech should end with a dire warning of the consequences of failing to carry out these reforms.
Students could be encouraged to present their speech to a ‘parliament’ of their peers who, based on the cases made by the speakers, can vote for the reformer they believe will solve London’s public health problems most effectively.
Public health - attempts to combat the Black Death
Students will learn about the history of attempts by individuals and governments to control the spread of a disease which wiped out half the population of China and a third of the population of Europe.
Classroom activity - write a public health leaflet
Ask your students to use the Brought to Life website to research the Black Death and early public health measures and then imagine that they are a government minister living through the time of the Black Death. You may want to support this by looking at the Black Death multimedia game.
Their job as minister is to produce a simple leaflet for the general population (or at least those who can read) that gives advice on what to do in this time of crisis to avoid catching the plague. This might include measures such as strapping live chickens to buboes, joining a penitent group or drinking potions laced with powdered unicorn horn.
The leaflet should also inform the public of any measures, such as quarantine, that the government will be taking to combat the spread of the disease.
Students could create a diary in which they imagine what it would have been like to be held in quarantine in the Middle Ages on suspicion of being a carrier of the plague.