Public Health and Cholera in Victorian Britain

Lisa Zhao reading

I spent the majority of my summer reading through books from Perkins and Bostock’s

collection regarding public health and cholera in Victorian Britain. My thesis covers the public

health response to the 1832 cholera epidemic in Sunderland, England. This was the first town in

the United Kingdom to endure a cholera outbreak, and the lack of knowledge and experience led

to large movements of resistance and denial. I chose this topic because I thought this was an

interesting case of pandemic denial that would help inform future public health efforts against

new epidemiological threats.

Over the summer, I was able to get a good amount of foundational research done by

checking out and reading through a number of print sources while meeting regularly with my

thesis advisor. Having access to Duke’s extensive libraries and the on-campus support was a

huge help in moving through my sources efficiently and freely. With the wide range of books and

consistent feedback for direction, I completed a good amount of my background work over the

month of July.

This research was essential in kickstarting my thesis research, as I was able to enter the

school year with a clearer idea of where my thesis was going and where to go next. It was

difficult getting started, as there is an overwhelming amount to sort through, so I am especially

grateful I had the opportunity to focus on it without distractions. As I enter the thesis seminar this

school year, I am now in a position to fill in the gaps and write without worrying as much about

how it will all come together. I am super grateful for Duke’s support of my research, especially

since humanities research is typically undervalued and underpaid.