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16.02.2015 admin
For almost two centuries, the stories of magic and myth gathered by the Brothers Grimm have been part of the way children — and adults — learn about the vagaries of the real world. To see our content at its best we recommend upgrading if you wish to continue using IE or using another browser such as Firefox, Safari or Google Chrome. We get into trickier waters with Rothschild and Major Powell-Cotton, where Colonialism is lightly passed off as a passion for Natural History. Abstract: This article explores the urban environmental concerns of late-medieval English towns and cities and argues that these urban areas had a form of public health. Introduction: To the mayor and bailiffs of York, The king, detesting the abominable smell abounding in the said city more than in any other city of the realm from dung and manure and other filth and dirt wherewith the streets and lanes are filled and obstructed, and wishing to provide for the protection of the health of the inhabitants and of those coming to the present parliament, orders them to cause all the streets and lanes of the city to be cleansed from such filth before St.
This quote from 1332 highlights not only a few causes of bad smells within medieval English towns and cities, but also a central concern for eliminating those smells and keeping the urban environment clean—that they could affect the health of urban inhabitants. But unless you’re a frequenter of hip coffee shops ironically decorated with dead animals, the form may have passed you by. However, the contemporary discussion of the 19th-century 'big game trophy hunters' and the industry around it makes for fascinating reading.


During this period, regulations that focused on maintaining the good health of town and city inhabitants were created and enforced. Naturally, the practical reason of keeping the streets and walkways passable, as well as the pure discomfort that many citizens experienced from horrible smells, also stimulated the creation and enforcement of city-cleaning regulations.
Among other things, these regulations focused on reducing unsanitary trade practices, protecting water sources, eliminating foul smells from the air, and preventing the consumption of bad food and water. However, the concern that a filthy, smelly city could lead to bad health was a prominent motivational factor behind most of these regulations.
They also represented a practical application of medieval theories and perceptions of disease—namely that disease was linked to bad smells. Medieval citizens cared about urban cleanliness due to their environmentally-based understanding of disease that focused mainly on the smell of the air and water.
Lyrically translated and beautifully illustrated, the tales are presented just as Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm originally set them down: bold, primal, just frightening enough, and endlessly engaging. Rather than lacking any form of public health due to medieval theories of disease, they actively pursued it due to the ancient and medieval link between environmental health and physical health.


Urban sanitation and hygiene represented a practical application of medieval theories of disease that urban authorities implemented and enforced through legal means. Medieval medical theories led to environmental regulations and concerns about the cleanliness and health of the medieval urban space.
Five neat chapters, all beautifully accompanied by full-page photographs of a diverse range of the subject. Personal favourites include a new view of the Horniman Museum’s famously over-stuffed Walrus - the 1880s taxidermists involved had no idea the sea mammal was meant to be wrinkly - and an eerie collection of South African hunting trophies.



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