Thesis ID: CBB001567315

The Perfect Food and the Filth Disease: Milk, Typhoid Fever, and the Science of State Medicine in Victorian Britain, 1850--1900 (2011)


Steere-Williams, Jacob (Author)

University of Minnesota
Jones, Susan D.
Kohlstedt, Sally G.
Gunn, Jennifer
Eyler, John M.
Jones, Susan D.
Kohlstedt, Sally G.
Borrello, Mark E.
Gunn, Jennifer
Borrello, Mark E.

Publication Date: 2011
Edition Details: Advisor: Eyler, John M; Committee Members: Jones, Susan D., Kohlstedt, Sally G., Borrello, Mark E., Gunn, Jennifer.
Physical Details: 369 pp.
Language: English

This dissertation examines the complex ways that public health practices developed in Victorian Britain, particularly how standards of scientific knowledge interacted with social and cultural ideas. My central argument is that cultural conceptions of milk as a wholesome, healthful food were intimately tied to and in some ways challenged by the rapidly developing sciences of epidemiology and analytical chemistry, creating a framework for public health policies. This was most apparent at the central level through the work of the Medical Department of the Local Government Board and the Government Chemical Laboratory of the Excise Department, and locally throughout Britain through the work of local Medical Officers of Health and Analytical Chemists. I demonstrate that epidemiologists, chemists, and veterinarians, were the scientific translators of deeply embedded social concerns about purity and progress. These disciplines were largely framed by interactions with different facets of the public; scientific knowledge about milk and disease was reified by milk producers and milk consumers who stressed the importance of purity as representative of cultural progress and British superiority. Milk was not a static cultural or material product, and its cultural meaning and material use changed dramatically throughout the period I investigate. Such analysis sheds historical light on contemporary problems about food safety and reminds us that consumption practices are always embedded within cultural assumptions about nation, personhood, science, and progress.


Description Cited in Dissertation Abstracts International-A 72/10, Apr 2012. Proquest Document ID: 882911676.

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Authors & Contributors
Richardson, Nigel
Steere-Williams, Jacob
Waddington, Keir
Hanley, James G.
Lancaster, Brian
Brown, Michael
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Science as Culture
Social History of Medicine
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
Public Understanding of Science
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Pickering & Chatto
Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society
I. B. Tauris
University of Chicago Press
Oxford University Press
Texas A and M University
Public health
Food and foods
Food safety
Typhoid fever
Public understanding of science
Smith, Thomas Southwood
Maclean, Charles,
Dickens, Charles
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
20th century, late
18th century
21st century
20th century, early
Great Britain
United States
London (England)

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