Campaign for Public Health (Summary)

This page provides a summary of the campaign for public health by breaking it into seven stages or 'steps to success'. These stages are a useful tool for analysing the tactics and also the success of the campaign. Underneath each 'step to success' is information about the campaign as well as links to historical source material. This summary page can also be downloaded as a grid in PDF format.

What was the campaign about?

Poor living and working conditions in many areas of the UK meant that disease and general poor health was common among British people.

Letter to The Morning Chronicle from Henry Mayhew Sanitary map of Leeds taken from Edwin Chadwick's Report on the Sanitary Condition's of the Labouring Population of Great Britain
Letter to The Morning Chronicle from Henry Mayhew Sanitary map of Leeds taken from Edwin Chadwick's Report on the Sanitary Condition's of the Labouring Population of Great Britain

What was the goal of the campaign?

Improved living and working conditions would prevent the spread of disease and reduce the number of people dying of contagious illnesses.

Dr Robert Baker's Report to the Leeds Board of Health Dr Robert Baker's Report to the Leeds Board of Health
Dr Robert Baker's Report to the Leeds Board of Health Dr Robert Baker's Report to the Leeds Board of Health
Dr Robert Baker's Report to the Leeds Board of Health  
Dr Robert Baker's Report to the Leeds Board of Health  

How did the campaigners become experts on the issue?

Many individual campaigners, as well as campaign groups, commissioned detailed investigations into the living and working conditions of Britain's population.

Extracts from Edwin Chadwick's Report Extracts from Edwin Chadwick's Report
Extracts from Edwin Chadwick's Report Extracts from Edwin Chadwick's Report
Extracts from Edwin Chadwick's Report Dr Robert Baker's Report to the Leeds Board of Health
Extracts from Edwin Chadwick's Report Dr Robert Baker's Report to the Leeds Board of Health
Dr Robert Baker's Report to the Leeds Board of Health Dr Robert Baker's Report to the Leeds Board of Health
Dr Robert Baker's Report to the Leeds Board of Health Dr Robert Baker's Report to the Leeds Board of Health

Was there a resource pool? Who were their allies?

High profile scientists and writers, as well as members of the aristocracy, were involved in the campaign for sanitary reform. Not only did this guarantee funds for the campaign, it also meant that scientific research and publicity was granted to the campaign via journals and newspapers.

Membership of the Metropolitan Sanitary Association To Working Men by Charles Dickens
Membership of the Metropolitan Sanitary Association To Working Men by Charles Dickens
John Snow's Map taken from On the Mode of Communication of Cholera John Snow's Map taken from On the Mode of Communication of Cholera
John Snow's Map taken from On the Mode of Communication of Cholera John Snow's Map taken from On the Mode of Communication of Cholera

Who were their opponents and what stood in their way?

One of the main objections to improving the living and working conditions of Britain's population was an economic one. For example, many individual landlords made large amounts of money, renting out small rooms and houses to two or more families at a time.

Letter to The Morning Chronicle from Henry Mayhew  
Letter to The Morning Chronicle from Henry Mayhew  

How did they plan for success?

Various individuals and groups participated, often independent from each other, in the campaign for sanitary reform. For example, the Morning Chronicle, a daily newspaper, published a series of exposes in 1850 while the Health of Towns Association was established to campaign for reform. Edwin Chadwick published his Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population at his own expense.

Table of Deaths from The Morning Chronicle Extract from the Health of Towns Association's reports of 1848
Table of Deaths from The Morning Chronicle Extract from the Health of Towns Association's reports of 1848
Extracts from Edwin Chadwick's Report Extracts from Edwin Chadwick's Report
Extracts from Edwin Chadwick's Report Extracts from Edwin Chadwick's Report
Extracts from Edwin Chadwick's Report  
Extracts from Edwin Chadwick's Report  

What campaign tactics and media did they use to get their message across?

Many letters, articles and cartoons were published in newspapers and journals to raise public awareness of the need for sanitary reform. For example, Charles Dickens, a member of the Metropolitan Sanitary Association, published many articles in his own journal Household Words.

Letter to The Morning Chronicle from Henry Mayhew A Drop of London Water, a cartoon from Punch magazine
Letter to The Morning Chronicle from Henry Mayhew A Drop of London Water, a cartoon from Punch magazine
Father Thames, a cartoon from Punch magazine To Working Men by Charles Dickens
Father Thames, a cartoon from Punch magazine To Working Men by Charles Dickens