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Teachers' Notes

Cholera first appeared in Britain in the autumn of 1831 at Sunderland, on the north-east coast. From there, it travelled both north - through Gateshead, Newcastle upon Tyne and into Northumberland and Scotland - and south, towards London. About 32,000 people died in this first epidemic and there were three further massive outbreaks over the following three decades.

The speed of the progress of the disease in an affected individual was unlike anything seen before, causing death to between 40 and 60 per cent of the victims within hours of the appearance of the first symptoms. The medical profession, divided as to the cause and treatment of cholera, remained largely helpless to prevent its ravages. The fear engendered by cholera was a powerful stimulus to the development of public health reforms at both local and national level.

Using documents from Northumberland Archives, the following themes are addressed:

•    Contemporary ideas about the causes and treatment of cholera.
•    The impact of the 1849 outbreak of cholera in Alnwick, Northumberland.
•    What the people of Alnwick did to try to prevent further epidemics.

There is also a glossary to help pupils with the language used in some of the documents.

This resource was developed with the support of the MLA as part of the Learn on Line Project. It was designed for KS3 and GCSE History schemes of work.