Art Hx: Visual and Medical Legacies of British Colonialism

A graph with meterological data and number of deaths from cholera and diarrhea on the y-axis and time measured in days on the x-axis. Meterological data is shown using red or black lines and includes barometric pressure, wind speed, rainfall, and temperature. Deaths from cholera are indicated by a dark blue line with light blue shading. Deaths from diarrhea are shown using a yellow line with yellow shading. A clear increase in deaths occurs from July to October, with a very pronounced peak in early September.

Title: Diagram Representing the Deaths from Cholera and Diarrhoea on Each Day of the Year 1849. With the Meteorological Phenomena Registered at Greenwich on the Corresponding Days, in William Farr, Report on the Mortality of Cholera in England, 1848–49 (London: W. Clowes and Sons, 1852), Plate 2.

Artist/Maker: William Farr

Date: 1852

Source: Wellcome Collection

Copyright/Permissions: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

References: Amanda Sciampacone. ‘Epidemics in a Mist’: Medical Climatology and Cholera in Victorian Visual Culture. Journal of Victorian Culture 25, Issue 4 (October 2020), 492–511.

Location(s): London, England

Commentary: This fold-out diagram was printed in medical climatologist William Farr’s book which argued that cholera was more prevalent in climates which resembled tropical climates, specifically that of India. In this graph, Farr brings together observations of climate patterns with increases in deaths from cholera, suggesting that London’s climate contributed to the spread of cholera.


Art Hx