Author(s): Richard J. Evans
Why were nearly 10,000 people killed in six weeks in Hamburg, while most of Europe was left almost unscathed? As Richard J. Evans explains, it was largely because the town was a "free city" within Germany that was governed by the "English" ideals of laissez-faire. The absence of an effective public-health policy combined with ill-founded medical theories and the miserable living conditions of the poor to create a scene ripe for tragedy. The story of the "cholera years" is, in Richard Evans's hands, tragically revealing of the age's social inequalities and governmental pitilessness and incompetence; it also offers disquieting parallels with the world's public-health landscape today.