Week 1: London

London is a city largely shaped by the people that inhabit it. One of the first things that seem most notable are the buildings. Some streets are wide while others are narrow and when you look up, the buildings seem to stretch so far upwards that it is easy to imagine how difficult it might be for light to kiss the ground. This seems most apparent when walking through Soho, though, it is a trait that can be witnessed almost anywhere in London. Looking at the poverty map by Charles Booth the rich appear to box in the poor. While the wealthy looked over wide city streets, the poor lived in narrow and grungy passageways that likely smelled of sewage and other distinct and horrid smells.


Then if London is a city shaped by its people, then why isn’t the poor who are demanding attention? Well, if the rich box in the poor, then either they were a social status largely ignored or many of wealthier ranks wanted to believe that such people didn’t inhabit the same bit of land that they did. Where social mobility might appear difficult, this may largely be attributed to the posh attitude of the wealthier. They weren’t like some kinds of street urchins, running about in the muck and grime. No, they belonged to something of a higher class where they could afford to purchase handmade goods fitted to their purpose and standing.


Throughout Soho, there are places that seem to compartmentalize types of stores along the same street. For example, one street may be lined with cloth and clothing makers, while another might be dedicated to shoe making. Things like Harrod’s and other department stores were something new and different that the wealthy class not initially inclined to. Used to tailored and fitted clothes, it seemed strange to them to be purchasing ready made clothes that any individual of any class might be able to purchase as well. Essentially, most of the wealthier classes paid little attention to the lower class and felt disinclined to interact with them.


With the cholera outbreak affecting many members of the working and lower class, it seems almost ground breaking at how much attention was being paid to discovering the source of the deaths and sickness. Instead of ignoring the problems of the lower class, John Snow went around mapping the deaths in an attempt to actually understand a figure out what was happening. As someone who understood that the disease wasn’t passed through miasma and was something that could just be left alone to somehow disappear, he tried to find the source of the deaths.

“He [John Snow] had spent more time than anyone working through the intimate details of the lives and death–first attending the sick as a clergyman, then investigating the outbreak as an amateur detective” (Johnson 199).

By mapping out who died and where, slowly he began to piece together the parts of the puzzle that led to the source of the Cholera outbreak. Where social lines become blurred, science is able to create breakthroughs. I am not sure how many other people during the time of John Snow and the Cholera outbreak wondered what exactly could it be that was making so many people die, or that it wasn’t being spread by miasma. How many during that time would have walked around until the found the answer and along the way, discovered that the ones who survived were the same who had been drinking alcohol instead of water.

There seems to be a level of care needed to break through and blur the lines between the social classes in order to advance science. By caring for those who lack opportunities that are otherwise available to the wealthy, science is able to discover the sources and treatments for diseases.


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