Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cholera's first visit to Paris, 1832

Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Loretta reports:

Setting books in the 1830s has made me acutely conscious of the shadow cholera—currently raging through Haiti—cast across Europe in the 19th century. 

It first reached Paris in the spring of 1832.  The following numbers are the city's daily death toll for April. 

Apr 1—79, 2—168, 3—212, 4—342, 5—351, 6—416, 7—582, 8—769, 9—861, 10—848, 11—769, 12—768, 13—816, 14—692, 15—567, 16—512

“Up to the last of these dates, there had died in Paris alone, upwards of 8,700 persons ; and before the end of the month the number was nearly doubled….

“In Paris, as in Hungary, the populace took up the idea that the disease was indicted on them by their water and wine being poisoned. Under this impression they perpetrated the most atrocious murders ; it required but the finger of any miscreant to point out an obnoxious individual. An old Jew, who carried a bottle of camphor as a preservative, was called a poisoner, while passing through the market place of the Innocents. The market-women and poissardes attacked him, and he fell dead beneath repeated stabs. At Vaugirard, a village close by Paris, two young men, being attacked by the mob on the same pretext, sought refuge in the house of the magistrate. They were forced out, and murdered in the street. At Paris, however, less than any where else, did the cholera maintain its character of choosing its victims among the squalid, the needy, and the dissolute. The panic, that reigned throughout the capital, was enormously increased by the number of persons, in the higher ranks, on whom the malady laid hold. Peers of France, members of the Chamber of Deputies, of the courts of justice, and of the diplomatic body, swelled the triumph of the pestilence. On the 6th of April, it struck down the prime-minister himself; and although he recovered from the first shock, the hand of death had been laid upon him too heavily to be removed.”
—Excerpt from The Annual Register of 1832.

9 comments:

Monica Burns said...

You two always make me look something up I don't know a lot about. Wonder how many who died would have survived if boiled their water first and then drank it, since dehydration seems biggest cause of the disease.

Pauline said...

How very timely given what is going on in Haiti right now. Have either of you read "The Ghost Map" by Steven Johnson about the London cholera outbreak of 1854 and John Snow's brilliant deductive reasoning on the subject? It's beyond fascinating.

Charles Bazalgette said...

Cholera was not generally believed to be water-borne even quite a few years after Snow's revelations. Nor was it known until around 1900 that boiled water with a little salt AND sugar added was a simple and effective treatment.

Charles Bazalgette said...

... and I think you mean that dehydration was the biggest effect of the disease, rather than cause?

nightsmusic said...

Some other interesting information on the cholera epidemic and the eventual sewer system:

http://goo.gl/JcZHG (love that site btw though I know it's a bit more 'modern') ;o)

And the 1902 encyclopedia (1902encyclopedia.com) has lots of good information on it too.

What a fascinating backdrop to a story though... *hint*

Monica Burns said...

Yes Charles, meant dehydration seemed to be the thing that killed in the end once cholera set in. Sort of like most people don't die of a disease, but the resulting issues of the initiating disease. My mom's leukemia weakened her body so that when she got pneumonia that's what she died of, not leukemia.

LorettaChase said...

Reading the early material is very interesting. Google Books has a number of pamphlets and small books written at the time of the first pandemic. There were those who believed the disease was contagious by contact and those who believed it was something in the air. So one school of thought pushed for quarantine while the other recommended, among other things, running away from the place where it was. I had a ton of statistics and info about the subject, and it was very hard to choose exactly what aspect to deal with in my post and which locale. The stories in the U.K. are pretty fascinating, too—they too had panicked/angry mobs & riots. In at least one case, I recall, a cholera hospital was destroyed.

Charles said...

The 'miasma' theory was most prevalent and I have to say that the London main drainage system was built in part for the wrong reasons but achieved the right result...

Charles said...

The 'miasma' theory was most prevalent and I have to say that the London main drainage system was built in part for the wrong reasons but achieved the right result...

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