© 2018

Contagion, Isolation, and Biopolitics in Victorian London


Table of contents

About this book


This book is a history of London’s vast network of fever and smallpox hospitals, built by the Metropolitan Asylums Board between 1870 and 1900. Unprecedented in size and scope, this public infrastructure inaugurated a new technology of disease prevention—isolation. Londoners suffering from infectious diseases submitted themselves to far-reaching forms of surveillance, removal, and detention, which made them legible to science and the state in entirely new ways. Isolation on a mass scale transformed the meaning of urban epidemics and introduced contentious new relationships between health, citizenship, and the spaces of modern governance. Rich in archival sources and images, this engaging book offers innovative analysis at the intersection of preventive medicine and Victorian-era liberalism.


history of modern public health urban epistemology and governance Victorian era medicine and health hospitals in 19th and 20th century England government and surveillance in medicine history of contagious disease biopolitics in Victorian England cultural history of public health 19th century disease control Metropolitan Asylums Board smallpox hospitals

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Santa Clara UniversitySanta ClaraUSA

About the authors

Matthew L. Newsom Kerr is Assistant Professor of History at Santa Clara University, USA.

Bibliographic information


“Contagion, Isolation, and Biopolitics in Victorian London will appeal to readers in a range of disciplines, including urban history, medical geography, history of medicine, political history, and social history. It is a compelling, well-written book that makes a particularly strong contribution to the histories of epidemiology and smallpox. Above all, it is a chilling reminder of the importance of place in public health.” (Annmarie Adams, Technology and Culture, Vol. 61 (1), 2020)