'The most complete experiment in army hygiene' British military reform In sanitation from the Crimea to India : a comparative account of sanitary reform in the 19th century. (2017)
AuthorsRichardson, John Patrickshow all
The history of sanitation is not generally considered a glamourous topic. It is far more common to see larger works relating to war, within which sanitation may be present as a footnote to explain those deaths not caused by battle. However, within the 19th Century, death in battle was significantly less common than death from illnesses and diseases associated with army and camp life. Within this thesis the nature of such deaths within the military populations of the British Army is discussed through analysis of two reforms in sanitation, namely the famous sanitary reforms of the Crimean war of 1854-56 and the significantly less well known sanitary reforms of the British Army in India, the official recommendations of which were proposed in 1863. Through examination and comparison of these reforms in sanitation, the efficacy of sanitary reform within this period is revealed. The impact of sanitary reform, although based in part on what is now recognised as flawed theory, in this case environmental miasmatic theory, proved extremely effective in both reducing rates of hospital admission and also the rate of death from various illnesses within both India and the Crimea. This improvement can be seen both on an active military campaign, and within a broader colonial deployment. Reform in sanitation proved to be a significant military asset as it allowed a much greater number of soldiers to be available or active at any time. In both cases reform was spurred on by conflict and supported by the increasing use and collection of medical data and statistics. This collection and use of medical statistics also highlighted the differences in mortality faced by those of different classes. The major differences in the mortality of those in different classes in turn revealed the cause of illness to be conditions of living. As a result of this, the sanitary reforms of the period were generally a call for improved living conditions so that disease could be prevented.