Mapping the Victorian Social Body

Mapping the Victorian Social BodyPamela Gilbert

State University of New York Press, 2004
ISBN: 0791460258

The cholera epidemics that plagued London in the nineteenth century were a turning point in the science of epidemiology and public health, and the use of maps to pinpoint the source of the disease initiated an explosion of medical and social mapping not only in London but throughout the British Empire as well. Mapping the Victorian Social Body explores the impact of such maps on Victorian and, ultimately, present-day perceptions of space. Tracing the development of cholera mapping from the early sanitary period to the later “medical” period of which John Snow’s work was a key example, the book explores how maps of cholera outbreaks, residents’ responses to those maps, and the novels of Charles Dickens, who drew heavily on this material, contributed to an emerging vision of London as a metropolis. The book then turns to India, the metropole’s colonial other and the perceived source of the disease. In India, the book argues, imperial politics took cholera mapping in a wholly different direction and contributed to Britons’ perceptions of Indian space as quite different from that of home. The book concludes by tracing the persistence of Victorian themes in current discourse, particularly in terms of the identification of large cities with cancerous growth and of Africa with AIDS.

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