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The Poor Law Commission's fifth annual report

As part of the Fifth annual report of the Poor Law Commissioners, work was undertaken to review the prevalence of fever in London.

The prevalence of disease was directly linked to the substandard living conditions experienced by the poor. The report found that, while there had been efforts to improve the sanitation of wealthier areas of London, poorer areas occupied by the 'industrious' poor had been neglected.

These areas were described as 'filthy, with close and crowded housing'. The areas were in a 'poisonous condition' due to 'the total want of drainage, and the masses of putrefying matters of all sorts which are allowed to remain and accumulate indefinitely'.

'The public, meantime, have suffered to a far greater extent than they are aware of, from this appalling amount of wretchedness, sickness and mortality. Independently of the large amount of money which they have had to pay in the support of the sick, they have suffered more seriously from the spread of fever to their own habitations and families.'


Smith S.
Report on the prevalence of fever in twenty metropolitan unions or parishes, during the year ended the 20th March 1838; The fifth Annual Report of the Poor Law Commissioners.
London: C Knight and Co; 1839.