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No one was responsible for seeing that the new houses which were rushed up during these years were decently built. Provided they would stand (for the moment) and that people who had practically no choice in the matter could be induced to live in them, nobody cared whether they were safe or sanitary, whether they had light or air, or whether they were disgustingly overcrowded. And as safety, sanitation, and an adequate amount of space for each inhabitant, all cost money which the builders were unwilling to spend, they were for the most part simply neglected. Moreover, it should be noted that the new town population came mostly from cottages just as cramped and often just as tumbledown as the jerry-built slums into which they congregated. They did not realize that one hovel in the country, with fresh air and sunshine all round it, if not inside it, and plenty of room for refuse to be buried or burned or work done in the open air, is a very different matter from a thousand or so hovels herded together and piled on top of one another in narrow filthy streets under a perpetual pall of smoke from the factory chimneys. They did not ask for better conditions; and if they had done so they would not have got them; for they could not have paid the price. There were no subsidized council houses in those days; indeed, in the new towns there was not until 1835, even a council to be responsible. For many decades the jerry builders were able to do their worst according to the principles of laisser-faire; and that is the chief reason why in our own day Government after Government has to rack its brains for a way of clearing the slums.

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The Public Health Movement

The rise of public health administration bears a good deal of resemblance to that of factory legislation. Again we find laisser-faire breaking down in practice on a specific point - this time the impossibility, to put it in a nutshell, of making everyone responsible for his own smoke, slops and sewage. Again we find theoretical opposition and short-sighted private interests joining hands to thwart reform. Again it is a sudden shock to public opinion, this time the cholera epidemics of 1831 and 1848, which puts an end to complacency and sets the wheels of progress going. And again, most particularly,... see: The Public Health Movement

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