This two-day international workshop will interrogate the historical relationship between water and health, focusing on the nineteenth century. The workshop will explore issues surrounding the availability and purity of water supplies, resulting from the expansion of urban communities and the neglect of rural ones, and the rise of water-borne epidemics. It will examine how water became a focus of reform during this period and an important aspect of the public health movement. At the same time water consumption became highly politicized, with the establishment of commercial water companies and speculative practices. There was also huge interest in the curative potential of water, demonstrated most notably in the expansion of hydropathic therapies and treatment centres and the continuing popularity of mineral water spas.
The workshop will examine the tension around water as it was represented as a major source of disease and, conversely, in its pure form as the basis of hygienic and healing practices. The workshop aims to approach the above issues comparatively in an international context, focusing on Western Europe and Asia. It will gather together leading figures working on these themes, with the potential of establishing a network of scholars and scope for future publications.