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The evolution of community medicine. Part 1, The rise of the public health movement.

Chave, Sidney.
  • Videos

About this work


The first in an 8-part series of short lectures by Sidney Chave from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The series charts the rise of the Public Health Movement and the different ways this initial reform evolved into community medicine. This lecture deals with the very foundation of the Public Health Movement, beginning with the Great Reform Act of 1832. Chave then looks in much detail at the work of Edwin Chadwick who was inspired by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham. In 1842, Chave wrote an influential report on the sanitary conditions of the working people of Great Britain. Although his report was not immediately effective, it was to revolutionise ideas about public health in the decades to come.


London : University of London Audio-Visual Centre, 1984.

Physical description

1 encoded moving image (27.55 min.) : sound, color




Copyright note

University of London

Terms of use

Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales

Language note

In English

Creator/production credits

Presented by Sidney Chave, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Produced by John Winn and Paul Wilks. Edited by David Crawford. Made for British Postgraduate Medical Federation. Made by University of London Audio-Visual Centre.


This video is one of around 310 titles, originally broadcast on Channel 7 of the ILEA closed-circuit television network, given to Wellcome Trust from the University of London Audio-Visual Centre shortly after it closed in the late 1980s. Although some of these programmes might now seem rather out-dated, they probably represent the largest and most diversified body of medical video produced in any British university at this time, and give a comprehensive and fascinating view of the state of medical and surgical research and practice in the 1970s and 1980s, thus constituting a contemporary medical-historical archive of great interest. The lectures mostly take place in a small and intimate studio setting and are often face-to-face. The lecturers use a wide variety of resources to illustrate their points, including film clips, slides, graphs, animated diagrams, charts and tables as well as 3-dimensional models and display boards with movable pieces. Some of the lecturers are telegenic while some are clearly less comfortable about being recorded; all are experts in their field and show great enthusiasm to share both the latest research and the historical context of their specialist areas.


Segment 1 Chave briefly introduces the series of 8 talks on this subject. He takes as his beginning, the moment in 1832 when the Great Reform Act was passed; he describes how this came about and shows illustrations of urban life for the working poor, including a 19th century factory floor and a squalid urban panorama. He describes how this act took over from the Great Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601. Time start: 00:00:00:00 Time end: 00:05:35:00 Length: 00:05:35:00
Segment 2 Chave looks back in history to the time of the Great Elizabethan Poor Law and describes how it functioned up until the 19th century when it became untenable. We hear about 'Speenhamland', a theory originating from a small hamlet in Berkshire where, in 1795, local justices ruled that poor relief should be tied to the cost of living so that poor relief was more effective for those needing it. However, this backfired and ended up empowering the owners and pauperising the workers, so much so that in 1832 the government set up a royal commission to review the whole system, resulting in the New Poor Law of 1834. Time start: 00:05:35:00 Time end: 00:11:08:00 Length: 00:05:33:00
Segment 3 Chave introduces Edwin Chadwick into the story and shows his portrait along with a portrait of Jeremy Bentham, to whom Chadwick was strongly linked. Chave describes the philosophy of Bentham briefly and then how Chadwick took aspects of it into his initial examination of the Poor Law. He was eventually appointed as secretary to the Poor Law Commission in London and it was while in that post that he became aware of the close connection between poverty and disease. Time start: 00:11:08:00 Time end: 00:14:44:00 Length: 00:03:36:00
Segment 4 Chadwick employed 3 doctors to investigated the diseases prevalent in the poorer parts of East London. Chave shows illustrations of impoverished London streets from this time. These reports so shocked Parliament that they ordered enquiries of the same nature to be made across the whole country. This led to Chadwick's 1842 'A Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain' - Chave reads 2 quotes from this report. One of Chadwick's key ideas was to change sanitation; this became known as Chadwick's Sanitary Idea and was to inspire the Public Health Movement in England for the next 50 years. Chave analyses the Sanitary Idea in some depth. Time start: 00:14:44:00 Time end: 00:22:48:00 Length: 00:08:04:00
Segment 5 Chave continues to discuss Chadwick's 1942 report, referring specifically to Chadwick's suggestion that there should be a district medical officer active in each borough, independent of private practice. Chave describes how successful Chadwick's report was, more than 10,000 copies were printed and sold. A further Royal Commission was held to verify Chadwick's findings and in 1848 the first Public Health Act in the history of Britain went into the statute book. Chave describes how many of Chadwick's suggestions were watered down and the changes that the act brought about. Time start: 00:22:48:00 Time end: 00:27:55:00 Length: 00:05:07:00


  • English

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