The Best and Worst of Times: Charles Dickens, the Victorians, and American Public Health




Brister, Sarah

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Charles Dickens is one of the foremost authors of England’s Victorian era, and his works continued to be studied and enjoyed today. Through heart-wrenching depictions of oppression and injustice, Dickens conveyed his deep concern for social reform throughout his works. Three of the areas he desired to see changed were the governmental intervention in its population’s health, the hardships physicians experienced in their practices, and the environmental hazards that plagued the growing population of this recently industrialized nation. This thesis recounts examples from Dickens’ novels that describe these issues and explores the true magnitude of these problems in Victorian England. It then compare these struggles to problems the American public is facing today to show how similar Dickens’ time is to the United States today. Ultimately, because these issues in American public health correspond to those of Victorian England, Charles Dickens’ novels can offer medical professionals valuable lessons in dealing with these problems.



Public health., British literature., Medicine.