Harpenden author investigates history of the Victorian plague in new book

Amanda J Thomas with a copy of her newest book, Cholera: The Victorian Plague

Amanda J Thomas with a copy of her newest book, Cholera: The Victorian Plague - Credit: Archant

An author who has written an account of the deadly strain of cholera which spread through Britain in the mid-1800s says she is thrilled to see her book hit the shelves.

Amanda J Thomas’s book Cholera: The Victoria Plague describes the toxic conditions under which thousands of people were terrorised and killed by the disease between 1830 and 1860.

Following the success of her first book on the cholera outbreak in Lambeth between 1848-49 Amanda, who lives in Harpenden, was approached by the publisher, Pen & Sword, and tasked with producing a “much more general picture to explain what happened in Victorian Britain from the first outbreak right up until 1866.”

Amanda, who has worked as a historian on the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are series, explained: “The reason I started writing about cholera was that I did quite a lot family history work and a distant cousin of mine said one day, ‘I’ve got a whole branch of my family who just disappear in 1848-49; why do you think that is?’

“Initially I thought it was probably smallpox, but we went to Lambeth archives together and discovered this extraordinary box of documents which looked as though they were written yesterday – nobody else had bothered looking at them.”

What Amanda found in those boxes was reams of sanitary records from Lambeth in the 1800s – a discovery which sparked the interest which became her latest book.

The subsequent two-year research project, which involved lengthy conversations with experts from a broad range of backgrounds, has culminated in a 200-page account of the disease and has received rave reviews from a number of top historians – including Dr Nick Barratt.

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Although the book is an account of cholera in the 1800s, Amanda says it is still relevant today, as the risk of a cholera epidemic still exists.

Amanda said: “I have been incredibly privileged to have access to all of the projects that are going on around the world, looking into cholera and there is every possibility that you could have a major outbreak here today. It would be difficult, but it’s not impossible.”

Amanda J Thomas’s book, Cholera: The Victorian Plague is now available to buy online and in all good bookshops.