A Cholera Patient – June 2008

Image of a political cartoon, depicting a cholera patient siting on the words 'starvation' with a table next to him with the words'Board of Health' with a vial saying 'Emetic' and 'The dose to be repeated' and a box of 'Blue Pills'
Collections relative to the Cholera at Gateshead, in the County of Durham, 1831
(Rare Books, RB616.932 BEL)

This gruesome cartoon is by the caricaturist and portrait painter Robert Cruikshank (1789-1856). It reflects the generally negative feeling that people in this country harboured towards doctors during the cholera outbreak of 1831-32. The cartoon contains many references to death, reflecting the lack of knowledge amongst doctors the world over about the cause and cure of cholera. It also highlights the ineffectiveness of the newly created Board of Health in preventing the spread of cholera.

The cartoon is part of a collection of broadsides, cartoons and other archival material relating to the cholera epidemic of 1831-32 in Gateshead, where two hundred and twenty people lost their lives to this horrific disease. Along with other sources from Special Collections, it is currently being used as part of Newcastle University Library’s education project, which aims to promote Special Collections materials to teachers and school children through visits, structured learning activities and the development of online learning resources using original sources. This particular source will feature in an online cholera-based resource which will tell the story of the cholera outbreak – from how it got here to the grisly symptoms, from ineffective quarantines to praying for miracle cures – through primary sources, interactive games, audio and much more.