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Title: Food, poverty and epidemic disease, Edinburgh, 1840-1850
Author: MacGillivray, Neil
ISNI:       0000 0004 2724 964X
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2004
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The thesis first examines the link between nutrition and disease, focusing on the poor of Edinburgh during the 184Os, a time of economic depression and food shortage. The development of nutritional science and the level of dietary knowledge amongst the medical profession are considered in the light of current nutritional guidelines. An assessment is made of the relationship between the 1947 scurvy epidemic and nutritional deficiency amongst the poor whose diet is then analysed. Institutional diets from contemporary tables of nutrition are subjected to computer analysis and their significance in terms of nutritional status discussed. There follows a description of the living conditions of the poor in the Old Town, emphasising the degree of overcrowding from inward migration and loss of housing stock following the demolition of streets and wynds in the course of city improvements and industrial developments. The history of the city’s water supply is explored and the absence of sewage provision is described in conjunction with an account of the foul bum controversy stressing the fact that the lack of water in the Old Town was critical in creating the fetid and hazardous environment where only the most primitive and inadequate methods of sanitation existed. Finally epidemic disease is studied, concentrating on the fever epidemics of 184 1- 44, 1847-49 and the cholera outbreak of 1848-49 but reviewing also the lesser epidemics of measles, whooping cough and scarlet fever. The history of the identification of typhus fever, relapsing fever and typhoid fever and their causation is described and the contagion-miasma debate is examined, assessing the contribution of Edinburgh physicians to the question. The lack of statistical information on Edinburgh’s morbidity and mortality is one of the factors discussed in a critical appraisal of the reaction of the medical profession and the city administration to these epidemics and to the social conditions in the midst of which they worked but few lived. In studying the cholera outbreak a database of 740 cholera victims has been prepared from the cholera returns maintained by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the information contained therein evaluated.
Supervisor: Cameron, Ewen. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: history