Discovering Local History 



Health in Stoke-on-Trent - Introduction



In this section we look at health in the Potteries focusing on both.


1) The area as a whole.

2) The Pottery industry.



Zymotic Theory

Before continuing it should be mentioned that in the middle of the nineteenth-century medical science was still to a large extent in its infancy. The causes of ill health and infectious diseases were not fully understood. In particular the germ theory of ill health was by no means universally accepted.

A rival theory argued that chemical substances in articles in which people came into daily contact caused most diseases, including infectious ones. In this theory chemicals contained in the products that people made or worked with caused specific occupational disorders. For example, soot was (correctly) seen as the route cause of skin cancers suffered by chimney sweeps. Likewise diseases were believed to be prevalent in towns and cities because of both: 

(a) the large number of industrial products manufactured within them; and 

(b) people coming into daily contact with a large number of chemical substances.


Such a theory led to the classification of infectious diseases as being 'zymotic' - a term that relates to the fermentation of chemicals.

The nature of these debates need not unduly concern us. Suffice it to say here that these beliefs had a major influence on the nature of the debate that ranged over causes of illnesses at this time, and, in turn, it influenced the nature of the enquire that was carried out into the causes of ill health in the Potteries.




next: public health in The Potteries