The middle 1800s saw a significant growth of industry called the Industrial Revolution. The invention of the steam engine as a source of power and other machinery meant factories could be built almost anywhere.
The population was beginning to migrate from the country to the towns and cities looking for work. This growth had major consequences; death rates in the city grew significantly higher than in the country, and overcrowding combined with poor sanitation affected the poverty-stricken and led to the spread of disease and epidemics.
As the result of pressure that developed from the social writings of Dickens, Gaskell and Engles, the Government was forced to take action. Parliament in 1832 began investigating the operation of the Poor Laws. Sir Edwin Chadwick's establishing the links between poverty and disease resulted in the laws being rewritten in 1834. And the 1848 Public Health Act set up a public health system with the establishment of local health boards and a General Board of Health.
John Simon, Chadwick's successor as chief medical officer to the General Board of Health was instrumental in achieving medical reform. The 1875 Public Health Act was passed and encompassed housing, sewage and drainage, water supply and the treatment of contagious diseases, giving Britain the reputation of having the most organized health system in the world.
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