Mapping the Miasma; the geographies of a forgotten Irish epidemic
In the spring of 1832, the great cholera pandemic finally reached Ireland. This was the most virulent pestilence to reach European shores since the Black Death. Cholera was to kill at least 30,000 in Britain, 100,000 in France and Hungary, and a similar number in Russia. Eclipsed by the tragedy of the Great Famine and now almost forgotten, the cholera’s final death toll in Ireland has been variously estimated to have been between 25,000 and 50,000 people. Primarily an urban disease, it struck hard, but also erratically, attacking some towns, while leaving others close by unaffected. The impact and legacy of the cholera on Irish towns and society remains under-studied, despite the significant amount of contemporary data available. In this article, daily and weekly numerical data collected during 1832 by the Central Board of Health and preserved in the National Archives, is analysed using a modern GIS system. For the first time, the details of the incidence of the epidemic in individual towns is mapped. By mapping this data and setting it within the context of the complex political and social events of the period, the significant impact which the disease had on the urban sphere in pre-famine Ireland is revealed.
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