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Homework for Friday, September 4

September 2, 2015

Steven Johnson: “Night Soil Men”

The attached passage is an excerpt from Chapter One of St. Albans’ alumnus Steven Johnson’s  “The Ghost Map”. Johnson’s book is a study of the London’s 1854 cholera outbreak. This passage is relevant to the Cities and Civilizations course for two reasons. First,  Johnson’s description of 19th century London is timeless in the way it captures some of the challenges that are inherent in having hordes of people cluster into one geographically tight living environment. Second, it provides us with an opportunity to learn how a historian can lay a foundation for an historical argument.

Read through the short paragraph in the middle of page eight that finishes with “it would prove as deadly as any in the city’s history.” Using the note-taking rubric presented in class, highlight and use margin notes to summarize the reading. In addition to transferring the big ideas to your notebook, please do the following:

Define the following terms

1. Cholera
2. Pure
3. Bone-Pickers
4. Sewer Hunters
5. Perpendadores
6. Methane Gas
7. Fecundity
8. zooxanthel-lae

Be ready to answer the following questions in one or two sentences

1. What is the thesis of this essay?
2. What bifurcation (see definition below) of economic class in 19th century London does the author point out?
3. What modern (21st century) role do the 19th century London scavengers play?
4. What do you think the phrase “a Victorian metropolis trying to make do with an Elizabethan public infrastructure” means?
5. Why does the author believe that despite the “social outrage” produced by understanding the scavenger system, it should be respected?
6. How does the author use coral reefs and rain forests to buttress his argument?

Bifurcation:  to be split or branched off into two parts, or split something into two parts.


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