INTRODUCTION

The ravages made by the disease somewhat recently named ‘woolsorters’ disease’ in and around Bradford have during the past month or two attracted considerable attention, and although inquiries of a public character have been held as to the origin and effects of the disease, the number of victims has not in any way decreased.1

Just after noon on 22 July 1880, James Greenwood, a forty-nine-year-old woolsorter based in a factory around five miles west of Bradford, left his work early after complaining of a slight cold and ‘aching pains in his bones’. Greenwood went to bed when he returned home, but by the next morning his condition had worsened substantially. His anxious wife sent for a local medical practitioner, Dr Jackson, but by the time Jackson arrived to examine his patient at around ten o’clock in the morning, Greenwood was ‘in a state of collapse’.2 Shortly afterwards, and fewer than twenty-four hours after leaving his work, James Greenwood was pronounced dead, leaving behind his wife and seven children. Following his death, two other local doctors – John Henry Bell and John Spear – conducted a post-mortem examination of the body and declared that the cause of death was woolsorters’ disease. Spear took samples of blood and sent them to William Smith Greenfield of the Brown Animal Sanatory Institution in London for microscopic analysis. The Bradford coroner, Mr Hill, opened an inquest, and the resulting proceedings, with interest fuelled by the ire of Greenwood’s fellow workers, filled the columns of local newspapers. During the course of these investigations, local medical practitioners, public health officials and woolworkers all made suggestions for preventive measures that could be usefully employed in factories.3 Nineteenth-century Bradford was widely regarded as the ‘wool capital of the world’ (it was also referred to as ‘worstedopolis’ after the worsted yarns and fabrics characteristic of the town’s industry).4 A diverse range of animal fibres arrived in Bradford from across the globe in increasing quantities, placing it at the heart of an expanding network of international trade that encompassed South America, Australasia, India and the Ottoman Empire. The job held by Greenwood as a woolsorter was skilled labour, which demanded a lengthy apprenticeship. Frequently working in an enclosed, dusty and unpleasant atmos-

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phere, he and his fellow employees were responsible for opening tightly packed bales of wool, which arrived in the many factories of Bradford from elsewhere in Britain and abroad. They then classified the fleeces into different grades according to the quality of the wool, separating these out into open baskets. It was said that you could always identify a woolsorter from his handshake, as the lanolin in these rich, luxuriant fibres made the skin of their palms and fingers extremely smooth. Cases such as that of Greenwood were by no means uncommon in nineteenth-century Bradford, and he was but one of a number of employees in the town’s extensive wool trade who met such an end. The occurrence of rapid, sudden deaths in the workforce became known throughout West Yorkshire, and local employees coined the term ‘woolsorters’ disease’ to refer to such instances. Statistics for deaths from woolsorters’ disease are highly unreliable given that there was widespread disagreement among medical practitioners in West Yorkshire about the cause and diagnosis of the condition. Many initially thought that woolsorters’ disease was a chronic illness brought on by the accumulation of small particles of dust and hair in the lungs, while others denied the existence of woolsorters’ disease as an entity altogether. The view that cases of woolsorters’ disease shared a common cause with anthrax – the presence of Bacillus anthracis – was first publicized in the early 1880s, but practitioners did not accept this universally until later in the decade. During the 1880s Bradford experienced the largest number of cases of anthrax out of any local health authority in Britain. Even so, there were only thirty-one deaths from anthrax recorded by the Bradford Medical Officers of Health between 1877 and 1890.5 When compared with other infectious diseases such as cholera, typhoid and diphtheria, these numbers might appear relatively insignificant, but press coverage of the disease and medical interest was out of all proportion with its incidence; anthrax and woolsorters’ disease were major sources of anxiety for Bradfordians. This state of affairs persisted well into the twentieth century, when a combination of disinfection measures and general improvements in sanitation caused a gradual reduction in the number of cases. At the same time as the citizens, medical practitioners and public health officials of Bradford were wringing their hands about the problem of woolsorters’ disease in the late nineteenth century, on the other side of the world Australians were equally concerned, but for rather different reasons. Pastoralists had noticed what seemed to be a new disease among sheep and cattle in the 1850s. By the time that woolsorters’ disease occupied a central position in Bradford society in the late 1870s, Australians had named this animal disease after the administrative county in New South Wales where the illness was first observed: Cumberland. In parallel to these two, separate, diseases ran extensive international discourse about both woolsorters’ and Cumberland disease in local Bradford and Australian newspapers. There was significant exchange between these two places,

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especially when medical practitioners and interested lay parties began to realize that both woolsorters’ disease and Cumberland disease appeared to share Bacillus anthracis as a common cause. Professional medical channels of communication were not central to the exchange of materials, practices and knowledge related to anthrax; rather, correspondence about the wool trade, regular columns about the prices of raw wool and discussion of general agricultural and industrial practices in the lay press became the principal vehicles for fruitful debate about Cumberland disease, woolsorters’ disease and, later, anthrax. Many layers of sources, both primary and secondary, are available for Bradford, including rare documentation from the perspective of workers, and richly detailed newspaper reports. These enable The Making of Modern Anthrax to present a historical account of illness, where economic, cultural and social factors play central roles in the creation of different disease identities. As we will see throughout, the multiple anthraxes of this book, of which woolsorters’ disease and Cumberland disease were just two examples, were diseases of modernity in their numerous and increasing connections with industrialization, capitalization and globalism. The strong, international connections between Bradford and Australia, established around the common occurrence of anthrax-related diseases, were by no means unique in this period. Here we will explore the diverse ways in which France, New Zealand, Germany, Italy, India and the Ottoman Empire all had significant associations with anthrax. More than this, however, they were also intimately connected with Bradford in its capacity as both a world-leading centre of anthrax research and a town at the heart of the global wool trade. Intriguingly, by the turn of the 1920s there was far more universal international agreement about what anthrax was, what to call it, and some of the best methods to prevent it. Cumberland disease, woolsorters’ disease and various other earlier identities had become conflated in British public and medical discourse under the banner of anthrax, and the different properties of these illnesses had melded into one: that of anthrax as a single disease that had properties drawn from across its earlier identities. Bradford was central to this international discourse about anthrax, but it also led the way in terms of preventive measures, particularly in industry, bacteriological techniques and lay campaigning associated with the disease. The Making of Modern Anthrax therefore seeks to examine the relationship between woolsorters’ disease, anthrax, Bradford and the world in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In Britain over the period in question, woolsorters’ disease and other forms of proto-anthrax gradually coalesced, and by 1920 they had been subsumed under the near-universal banner of anthrax. As the key hub of the global wool trade, Bradford was the melting pot for much of this transformation. Ideas about the different manifestations of anthrax were created, arrived and modified here, and the discourse surrounding anthrax and related diseases spilled from professional medical journals into local newspa-

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Understanding Anthrax

pers, public inquests and discussions in Bradford factories, and back again. This mirrored the transmission of the raw materials of the international wool trade, which were constantly implicated in different ways as the cause (or harbouring the cause) of anthrax. Further, the book will show the different ways in which the context of science, popular beliefs about disease, and a whole host of social groups and cultural factors – among them, the global wool trade, woolsorters, compensation, employers, families, ambitious physicians, anxieties, sheep – brought together a constellation of different diseases under the banner of anthrax. In this introductory section we shall first see how anthrax has hitherto been characterized by historians, before examining the questions that this book seeks to answer in relation to the wider historical literature. We will then look at how the overall structure of the book maps onto these questions, before finishing with two important matters of housekeeping: the issue of nomenclature for anthrax, and a brief introduction to the social, cultural and economic context of Bradford in the period of study. In seeking to examine the relationship between anthrax-related diseases in a diverse range of socio-political, economic and geographical contexts, this book also aims to offer a productive reconciliation between histories that are either explicitly local or global in their outlook. Therefore, while anthrax is our principal focus, the methodology of this study has far wider applicability for future histories of diseases and our knowledge about them.

Anthrax has been widely characterized as the object of research by Robert Koch, Louis Pasteur and other medical scientists in the nineteenth century and as an agent of biological warfare in more recent times.6 Numerous historical accounts of the disease have stressed the key role of anthrax and its causative organism – Bacillus anthracis – in confirming the causal concept of disease in the late nineteenth century.7 Others have concentrated on the pioneering attempts to combat anthrax through both vaccination and other preventive measures in the decades around 1900.8 The anthrax attacks on the United States in September 2001 gave rise to a renewed interest in the disease, and recent scholarship has continued to emphasize the importance of anthrax in the rise of bacteriology during the late nineteenth century, while also examining its emergence as a biological weapon.9 Scholars have also argued that the major piece of British legislation associated with anthrax in this period, the Anthrax Prevention Act (1919), was largely ineffective in removing the disease from industries.10 Using the ‘knowledge in transit’ approach, historians have charted the movement of knowledge and research practices surrounding anthrax in the nineteenth century, particularly in the wool and horsehair industries. Specifically, Susan D. Jones and Philip M. Teigen argue that there was an international network of knowledge exchange

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between three keys areas of anthrax research: Walpole, in Massachusetts, and Glasgow and Bradford in Britain. This network was based on the exchange of specialist medical knowledge and a common appreciation for the distinctive visual properties of Bacillus anthracis.11 Many accounts of the history of anthrax include consideration of Bradford and the key researchers associated with the town, but thus far none have taken Bradford and West Yorkshire as the focal point of their study and situated it within a truly international context, even though all historians acknowledge the intimate links between Bradford’s wool industry and the emergence of anthrax as both a disease and a diagnostic category in the Western world.12 The historical and modern understandings of anthrax in an international context have attracted increasing attention from historians. Susan D. Jones’s biography of the disease, Death in a Small Package, tracks changes in understandings of anthrax from the ancient world through to the present day, but well over half of her account is dedicated to the twentieth century.13 Concentrating on Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union, Jones employs a novel methodology by mobilizing modern studies of the global distribution of anthrax strains to show how the disease has been spread.14 Historians have only just begun to explore the emergence of anthrax in new localities such as South Africa and Australia; such studies have concentrated on specific geographical contexts and do not consider in any detail the relationships between anthrax in animals and in man, or comparative analysis of anthrax in different geographical settings.15 It can be argued that most of these studies suffer from having a focus that is either too broad or too narrow. Jones, for example, includes material across well over 10,000 years of history, and does not restrict her study to any one country or region. Her otherwise excellent account, while commendably broad in scope, consequently skates over important details in the history of anthrax in particular localities; Bradford, for example, receives just a few pages.16 At the other end of the scale, Gilfoyle, Collier and others engage with anthrax solely at the local or national level, and fail to appreciate the wider incidence of the disease as a global phenomenon.17 These narratives point to an inherent difficulty posed by examining anthrax in historical context: it had a very diverse range of identities as both a causative organism and a disease in different political, economic and social contexts. It is this problem that I will seek to unpack and address directly in the following chapters. Certain figures who feature prominently throughout the book, such as the Bradford medical practitioners John Henry Bell and Frederick William Eurich, are already established within the secondary literature. We shall also encounter a number of other individuals who are at present either peripheral to the narrative or absent from it, such as the Italian physician Achille Sclavo, the Australian public health official W. Perrin Norris and the New Zealand veterinary officer

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John Anderson Gilruth. A group particularly notable by their absence from the received view of anthrax and Bradford are the woolsorters of West Yorkshire, who were not only at risk of contracting the disease, but also key actors in shaping its very definition and informing the development of workplace regulations and legislation. Indeed, groups such as these, who acted as intermediaries between the medical profession and the lay public, have become increasingly prominent in the historical literature in recent years.18

Anthrax in Context
The current literature on the history of anthrax thus leaves a number of open ends, especially, though not exclusively, with respect to Bradford. The Making of Modern Anthrax seeks to address three major questions in relation to anthrax and its associated diseases in this period. Firstly, what was the impact of the socalled Bacteriological Revolution on the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of anthrax? Secondly, how and why did the many locally defined, anthrax-like diseases that appeared in public and professional discourse during the nineteenth century coalesce into the seemingly unified understanding of anthrax that was crystallized in Britain by around 1920? And thirdly, to what extent and in what ways did geographical locations matter for this story? These questions can be usefully related to current historical understandings of bacteriology and sanitation, of disease identities, and of geographies of scientific and medical knowledge. The notion of a Bacteriological Revolution has recently been challenged by a number of historians. Michael Worboys, in particular, has argued that events normally seen as constituting this shift in fact took place over a much longer timescale than previously thought. For Worboys, the adoption of bacteriological understandings of disease and the associated practices was neither rapid nor complete.19 Instead, he argues that there existed multiple readings of ‘the’ germ theory of disease in Britain during this period, and that the implementation of germ-based practices in medicine and veterinary medicine was protracted and far from universal.20 Other historians have extended Worboys’s revisionist thesis to the practical application of germ theories in a number of cases, concentrating principally on medical practitioners, Medical Officers of Health and other professionals. Lay actors and other interested parties and publics – including key advocacy groups associated with germ theories of disease in Britain – have therefore been marginalized.21 Elsewhere, Christopher Hamlin’s work on public health has demonstrated that there was a conscious and deep-seated commitment to politically motivated sanitarian reform by medical practitioners, campaigners and legislators in the middle part of the nineteenth century, and that the emergence of bacteriological techniques and approaches created just as many new problems as they offered promising solutions to existing difficulties in

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both practice and theory.22 This book seeks to use the interpretive models posited by Worboys and Hamlin in order to examine what impact bacteriology had on attempts to combat woolsorters’ disease and anthrax. Of particular interest here are the roles of employers and employees in the wool trade, and in local and national organizations of both labour and capital; these will be examined alongside the more established narratives of medical professionals and public health officials in Britain and beyond. As we shall see throughout, anthrax-like diseases emerged in new locales across the world during the nineteenth century. These individual, locally bounded conditions acquired distinct cultural resonances depending on where they were found. They were therefore a product as much of prevailing social conditions as of biological and pathological processes. The historical nature of such disease concepts has been a source of major interest for historians in recent years. The work of Adrian Wilson can be used to support arguments that comparative study of disease terms can shed significant light on the social context surrounding each condition. Following on from Wilson, names assigned to diseases are far more significant than mere issues of nomenclature; the deconstruction of such terms is therefore key to understanding the social and cultural identity of diseases, as well as the attitudes and approaches of medical practitioners and other social groups to historical illnesses.23 More recently, Neil Pemberton and Michael Worboys have examined the case of rabies in Britain. They conclude that the disease had a number of distinct identities that were dependent on social, cultural and biological context. For Pemberton and Worboys, rabies did not exist as a homogeneous entity; rather, it encompassed many different terms and forms, some of which bore little resemblance to each other.24 Building on this work, The Making of Modern Anthrax will therefore as a major goal examine the discrete identities of anthrax in social, cultural and geographic contexts, and map shifts in the understanding of these diseases and their associated practices. The diverse range of spaces – both geographical and social – occupied by anthrax and proto-anthrax conditions offers an excellent case study in this regard. To a large extent the diversity of anthrax across different social domains is explicable by its introduction into numerous new environments and locations during the period in question. The importance of a global perspective when looking at the exchange of scientific knowledge and practices has emerged as a cornerstone of historical enquiry; geographies of scientific and medical knowledge and practice are now central to the discipline. Among these, Charles Withers and David Livingstone in particular have demonstrated strong links between scientific enterprise and locality.25 Their recent collection, Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Science, confirms the interest in place for current histories of science, technology and medicine. The overarching argument running through the essays emphasizes that ‘science is a spatially distributed entity’; in

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Overview

recent years the humanities and social sciences in general terms have witnessed a ‘spatial turn’.26 The transmission of knowledge through national and international social structures and networks also forms a key element of what has come to be known as the ‘knowledge in transit’ approach. James Secord has argued that science itself is largely a form of communication, and he stresses that ‘the processes of movement, translation and transmission’ should be central to historical analysis.27 Historians of medicine have likewise noted the need to look upon medical theory and practice with an international perspective. Scholars such as Sujit Sivasundaram, Mark Harrison and David Edgerton have called for a global approach to historical narratives. Sivasundaram has argued that in studying narrow geographical areas, ‘something important has been lost’, while Harrison highlights the growth of international market-driven economies as a key consideration for the historian of medicine, particularly when considering infectious diseases; such themes underpin The Making of Modern Anthrax, although, as we shall see later, the book attempts to move beyond the local/global distinction.28 More recently still, Deborah Neill has noted the central role that international networks, conflicts and collaborations played in establishing tropical medicine as a discipline.29 The scope of local, national and international settings is thus an important emergent area of exploration for historians. This book examines the impact of the intellectual and practical dissemination of anthrax-like diseases in the specific, local setting of Bradford, before assessing the wider significance of this within both national and international contexts. We will see that anthrax provides a striking confirmation that locality mattered, not just for the purposes of historical enquiry but for historical actors themselves.

A study of anthrax in Bradford alone would be instructive; however, the book is structured in order to show the international significance of Bradford’s relationship with anthrax, mirroring the importance of national and global perspectives for histories of science, technology and medicine. To this end, the six chapters are arranged in pairs, addressing anthrax in local, national and global contexts. All the chapters roughly cover the period from 1875, when Bradford’s medical practitioners – particularly John Henry Bell – began to take an increasing interest in woolsorters’ disease, through to 1920 and the immediate aftermath of the Anthrax Prevention Act (1919), which mandated disinfection for suspected imported materials. Although woolsorters’ disease was the subject of local discussion prior to the work of Bell, he was the first to connect the condition with anthrax, while the Anthrax Prevention Act was the culmination of over a decade of research by the Bradford-based Anthrax Investigation Board and a Home Office Departmental Committee of Inquiry.

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Chapter 1 introduces the major anthrax researchers in Bradford during this period: John Henry Bell and Frederick William Eurich. They did not work together in any substantive fashion; Eurich became involved in researching the disease fewer than twelve months before Bell died in 1906. The two also took very different approaches to determining possible preventive measures. Although he argued vociferously that Bacillus anthracis was the common cause of woolsorters’ disease and anthrax, Bell conducted the bulk of his research by charting the clinical progression of the disease and assessing factory conditions. Eurich was far more concerned with using laboratory techniques to classify different kinds of wool according to the risk that each posed. Chapter 2 moves beyond the professional medical domain to consider how non-medical publics in Bradford encountered woolsorters’ disease and anthrax through the local press. The chapter centres on two major local newspapers – the Bradford Observer and the Bradford Daily Telegraph – both of which played active parts in local debates surrounding the diseases. Medical professionals, employers, employees and public health officials, as well as politicians and labour organizations, used the columns of these publications to contest issues, including employer responsibility and the efficacy of various safety measures. Shifting to the national level, Chapter 3 uses experiences of the disease in Glasgow, Kidderminster and East Anglia to demonstrate similarities and differences with the Bradford case. Glasgow’s proactive and influential Medical Officer of Health, James Burn Russell, investigated several sudden deaths in one of the city’s largest horsehair factories in March 1878. He concluded that the disease was anthrax but did not initially relate these deaths to those in Bradford. The local press again played a major role in shaping the identity of anthrax in Glasgow, tapping into pre-existing local fears about the integrity of the food supply and the importation of live foreign animals. Kidderminster’s carpet industry, just like the wool trade in Bradford, was central to the local economy; it was in this trade that the majority of cases occurred. J. Lionel Stretton was a medical practitioner in the town who, in the 1890s and early 1900s, pioneered new surgical treatments for the external form of anthrax. One of the major differences identified between Bradford and Kidderminster is the lack of a highly organized labour force in the case of the latter. Active campaigning on the part of workers was thus not a prominent feature of the disease in the social context of Kidderminster, even though local newspapers such as the Kidderminster Shuttle provided a similar forum to the Bradford press. East Anglia was the major area of incidence for agricultural anthrax in Britain during this period. Cases of the disease were therefore seen primarily in farm labourers, who generally had to travel to London for specialist treatments. Parallels with Bradford were scarce in the literature of the period, suggesting that understandings of industrial anthrax were very different from its rural counterpart.

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Chapter 4 discusses the development of legislation designed to combat anthrax, as well as efforts to secure compensation for the families in fatal cases. Voluntary regulation agreed in Bradford during the 1880s through collaboration between capital, labour and medical professionals formed the basis for national-scale preventive measures, and Bradford-based employers and employees were highly successful in lobbying for the introduction of specific clauses, almost all of which reflected extant practices from the town. Debates about compensation did not concentrate on the biology of the disease but were rather concerned with whether the setting up of anthrax in a worker could be classified as an ‘accident’. Intriguingly, a compensation claim from the family of a deceased Kidderminster worker, not a Bradford case, was the first to successfully challenge an employer in this regard. Moving beyond Britain, Chapter 5 recalls the pioneering work of Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch on anthrax, before analysing the appropriation of these Continental approaches by Bradfordian and other British researchers and public health officials. The mass vaccination of animals on the Pasteurian model was swiftly ruled out by the majority of medical scientists in Britain (as well as Pasteur himself ) as the disease was not a significant enough problem among livestock. Rejection of this approach was also fuelled by the vociferous calls of the anti-vivisection movement. Therefore, although he was working with the anthrax bacillus, John Henry Bell based his approach to anthrax prevention and treatment on an understanding of the disease that did not require intimate knowledge of the organism’s habits and life cycle, in marked contrast to the necessity of a laboratory-based understanding of the disease on the part of both Pasteur and Koch. The final section of Chapter 5 gives the first thorough account of the role played by the Italian physician Achille Sclavo in anthrax treatment in Britain. He devised ‘Sclavo’s serum’, an anti-anthrax preparation, in the mid-1890s, and the noted Medical Inspector of Factories, Thomas Morison Legge, introduced this therapy to Bradford practitioners in 1904. Within a couple of years, Sclavo’s serum had become the trusted, standard treatment for cases of external and internal anthrax, both in Bradford and further afield. Finally, Chapter 6 looks beyond Europe and considers the impact of anthrax on Turkey, Australia and New Zealand in relation to Bradford. This chapter therefore places Bradford’s experiences with the disease in a truly global context, analysing how European anthrax expertise moved and emerged as preventive strategies that could be applied elsewhere. Similarly, we will see that Bradfordians took a keen interest in the practices associated with anthrax-like diseases in far-flung parts of the world. The majority of dangerous fleeces imported to Bradford originated in Turkey, particularly the Van region in the east of the country. Inhabitants of Bradford thus came to view that particular area as being primitive in its approach to sanitation: according to these accounts, anthrax was a disease that originated in that country owing to the poor hygiene practices of

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those living there. The chapter also charts the unsuccessful attempts of British legislators to establish disinfection stations in the countries from which suspect materials originated. European systems of anthrax control failed in Turkey for largely sociological reasons, but neither did extensive Turkish experiences of this disease – known locally as dallack – find a foothold in Britain. Rather, there existed a culturally determined impasse of knowledge exchange between these two contexts, where specialized dallack doctors, livestock raisers, merchants and fibre processers were regarded with suspicion and hostility by British and other European physicians. Looking further afield, the close trade relationship between Australia and Britain provided the context for significant exchange of information concerning anthrax prevention. Initially known in New South Wales as ‘Cumberland disease’, anthrax was not naturally endemic in Australia, but was most likely imported to the country via bone-based fertilizers from India. British lawmakers sought the advice of Australian veterinary practitioners – principally W. Perrin Norris – when determining the best strategies for preventing anthrax. New Zealand likewise experienced cases of the disease, but even there the condition was on occasion referred to as ‘Bradford’s disease’, showing just how pervasive and deeply engrained the association between the town and anthrax had become. Beyond the scope of anthrax, this book makes an important contribution to our understanding of how both knowledge and practices surrounding diseases were created, transformed and transmitted. Alongside the professional medical consideration of anthrax and related diseases, there ran a complex web of cultural and social frameworks where woolsorters, coroners, newspaper editors, pastoralists, merchants and factory owners discussed the nature of disease, preventive public health measures, issues of workmen’s compensation and the merits of different medical arguments. Combining these elements of local cultural life with geographical exchange both nationally and internationally yields a narrative that includes elements of both the cultural and spatial turns, highlighting the rich potential of pluralistic methodological approaches in histories of science, technology and medicine. At the outset, however, we need to consider two preliminary matters that, in very different ways, will help set the scene: the nomenclature of anthrax and proto-anthrax diseases, and the social and cultural setting of Bradford. There is a sense in which woolsorters’ disease, anthrax and the many other terms used to refer to similar diseases are analogous, but it is a mistake to suppose that a case of woolsorters’ disease that occurred in the 1860s can be equated with a case of anthrax from the 1910s at either the biological or social level. The following sections therefore establish the manner in which disease nomenclature will be treated throughout this study, before moving on to briefly discuss the economic and social background of Bradford.

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Naming Death
Many historians have characterized woolsorters’ disease as an earlier form of anthrax, or even as simply another name for anthrax.30 On these readings, anthrax and woolsorters’ disease are biologically identical; the only change is one of nomenclature, driven by the research-based appropriation of the disease by medical scientists and practitioners from the 1880s. One of the principal arguments advanced by the current literature is that ‘[p]ainstaking bacteriological and epidemiological investigation transformed woolsorters’ disease into anthrax in 1881 in Bradford’.31 However, the properties of ‘woolsorters’ disease’ were themselves highly contingent and flexible prior to this date, and the name continued to be used in both the professional and public domains long after it had supposedly been equated with anthrax. Indeed, the transition from one to the other cannot be pinpointed to a particular moment, or even a specific year; Bradford newspapers continued to use ‘woolsorters’ disease’ until well after 1900. Prior to the winter of 1879, when John Henry Bell showed that Bacillus anthracis was present in a case of woolsorters’ disease and began to argue that anthrax and woolsorters’ disease had this as a common cause, the latter condition had little if anything to do with the presence of micro-organisms as far as Bradfordians were concerned.32 In fact, when the term ‘woolsorters’ disease’ first entered the lexicon during the mid-nineteenth century, medical practitioners generally considered that it was caused by a build-up of concretions of lime, dust and small hairs in the lungs over a long period of time.33 It is therefore misleading to consider woolsorters’ disease to be a form of anthrax, as this conflates historical definitions of these illnesses. In order to circumvent this problem of nomenclature (after all, we must call these diseases something), as far as is practical the terms will be used here as they were by the historical actors. When, for example, Bell began to use woolsorters’ disease and anthrax interchangeably from around 1880, they will be viewed as identical for him from that period onwards. However, prior to this they will be treated as two distinct conditions: a diagnosis of anthrax required the presence of B. anthracis, while earlier definitions of woolsorters’ disease did not. By the time that regulations were drawn up to combat woolsorters’ disease in 1884 (the so-called Bradford Rules), the two diseases were effectively overlapping for the Bradford public and medical profession.34

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Table I.1: Years in which specific (largely local) terms for anthrax-like diseases first appeared in printed sources. It is likely that terms such as these were used informally before achieving recognition in textual form: woolsorters’ disease is just one example of such a practice, as we will see in Chapter 2. The entries in bold indicate which terms were initially printed in local newspapers rather than in professional periodicals or books.
Year 1398 1543 1855 1863 1865 1865 1868 1874 1874 1880 1883 1895 1898 Name Anthrax (Antrax) Malignant pustule Cumberland disease Splenic apoplexy Siberian fever Siberian plague Splenic fever Sorters’ disease Woolsorters’ disease Anthracaemia Bradford woolsorters’ disease Bradford disease Maladie de Bradford Source De Proprietatibus Rerum, Britain The Most Excellent Workes of Chirurgerye, Britain Maitland Mercury, Australia Lancet, Britain Aberdeen Journal, Britain Lancet, Britain / John Bull, Britain Reports of the US Commissioner of Agriculture, USA A Few Observations on So-Called Sorters Disease, Britain Bradford Observer, Britain British Medical Journal, Britain Queenslander, Australia Marlborough Express, New Zealand Technique Microbiologique et Sérothérapique, France

Anthrax and its related diseases were known by a variety of names. Table I.1 shows the first identifiable dates in published materials when different terms for anthrax (broadly construed) came into use. There was a boom in the introduction and wider usage of such terms from the mid-nineteenth century, mirroring the emergence of anthrax-like diseases in new regions. This information also suggests that local newspapers such as the Bradford Observer were responsible for the popularization of such terms, at least to the same extent as professional medical publications like the Lancet and the British Medical Journal (BMJ). Of all of these terms, ‘woolsorters’ disease’ is perhaps the most significant for our purposes. This emerged from the Bradford workforce in the mid-nineteenth century before being appropriated by the medical community during the 1870s. Understanding the social and cultural milieu of Bradford in this period is therefore critical to unpacking the relationship between these interlinked diseases, and we move now to look at the circumstances of Bradford in the late nineteenth century in which these names and disease identities moved and interacted.

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Bradford’s Social Setting

The Bradford in which James Greenwood lived, worked and died was possessed of a lively social and cultural life. Like many provincial manufacturing centres in nineteenth-century Britain, the town experienced significant population expansion, played host to a politically motivated local press and, at least for a time, provided great wealth generation for entrepreneurs. The two major newspapers, the Bradford Observer and the Bradford Daily Telegraph, had contrasting agendas and demonstrated the breadth of political views in the town. Both were liberal, but the Telegraph was a paper of radical leanings, while the Observer preached

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The Making of Modern Anthrax, 1875–1920

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a more moderate liberalism. A Conservative rival, the Bradford Chronicle, appeared in the early 1870s on the back of Bradford’s ‘Tory revival’ during the 1860s, but it lasted only eleven years before folding.35 The local medical community was also an active one. During the nineteenth century Bradford acquired an Infirmary and a well-supported Medico-Chirurgical Society (founded in 1863) as well as two rather more unusual and specialized institutions: the Royal Eye and Ear Hospital (1857) and a dedicated Microscopical Society (1882).36 The neighbouring Leeds Medical College (from 1831) provided university-style training, offering an alternative to the more traditional provincial routes into medicine through apprenticeships and training in such established centres as London, Oxbridge and Edinburgh. Further, Bradford was the cradle of the Independent Labour Party during the late 1880s and early 1890s, and both its manufacturers and trade unionists contributed significantly to national organizations of capital and labour respectively. In recognition of the innovative nature of Bradford in this period, the Bradford Observer noted in 1896 that the town’s residents were ‘used to Bradford leading the way’.37 Bradford’s position as the major wool-processing centre in the world is also a critical component of this story. Bradford-based manufacturers imported raw materials from across the globe; these arrived almost exclusively in Liverpool and were transported to the town, where the grounds for an expanded, largely mechanized wool-based industry had been laid by the end of the eighteenth century.38 Driven by a conscious decision on the part of industrialists to specialize in woollens and worsteds, West Yorkshire quickly surpassed the traditional wool heartlands of Norfolk and the West Midlands, for whom these items were just one of a number of industrial products.39 Such was the dominance of Bradford during this period that one of the principal methods for preparing wool became known as the Bradford system.40 Numerous historians have acknowledged the central role played by West Yorkshire in the global wool trade.41 While Bradford was a key location within the international economic network of wool and wool-derived products, the raw fleeces that were brought into the Bradford region were likewise central to the town’s local economy. The pre-eminence of wool within Bradford was legendary: the British press commonly referred to the town of Lawrence in Massachusetts as ‘the Bradford of America’ for its booming textile industry during the nineteenth century.42 Although Bradford itself was the byword for the global wool trade, associated satellite towns – Halifax, Huddersfield, Bingley, Shipley and Saltaire – had many factories of their own, and expanded the ‘Bradford trade’ across much of the West Riding of Yorkshire. Mohair, taken from the Angora goat, and alpaca were used to make suits and other luxurious items of clothing in West Yorkshire; these products were widely regarded as being the best examples of their kind. In order to keep up with the demand for these products both at home and abroad,

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Bradford manufacturers increasingly looked to foreign imports for newer, more cost-effective wools.43 It was during the mid-nineteenth century when West Yorkshire manufacturers like Titus Salt, Sr introduced alpaca and mohair, originating from places such as Peru, India and the Ottoman Empire. Thereafter, local workers in the industry began to notice a peculiar and (seemingly) new disease among those involved in the early stages of processing these raw materials: this was known locally and, later, further afield as woolsorters’ disease. Most of the processes involved in preparing a raw fleece for weaving were entirely mechanized by 1850. There was, however, one notable exception: the task of sorting the wool by quality was still carried out by hand, and in fact remains so today. These woolsorters were responsible for opening the bales of tightly packed wool, which were bound with metal hoops, removing the fleeces, shaking out any residual dust and then separating the pieces of wool according to the needs of the particular items being manufactured: from fine suits and other items of clothing to blankets. Figure I.1 shows three woolsorters at work, one in the foreground cutting the iron hoops binding fleeces together, while his two colleagues identify the qualities of wool present in a different bale. Woolsorting therefore required – in the words of an expert of the time, writing in 1869 – ‘a person of long experience, and sound, steady judgement, to value [a piece of wool] by the fineness, soundness, softness, density, uniformity, and whiteness of its fibres’.44 It was a skilled occupation, with an apprenticeship lasting at least two years, and sorters were far better paid than the combers and machine-minders who were responsible simply for the correct functioning of mechanical processes further along the production line.45 According to a Local Government Board Medical Officer, John Spear, in 1880 2.9 per cent of the adult male population in Bradford and Keighley were employed as woolsorters, constituting over three-quarters of the total number of sorters in England.46 Such was the concentration of woolsorters in Bradford during the nineteenth century that the National Union of Woolsorters (NUW), formed in 1889, was based in the town.47 The NUW was highly active politically, and they campaigned vigorously to make sure that their members were able to find sufficient work. By 1910 the NUW’s membership stood at 1,826; even the far more niche Bradford Wool Top and Noil Warehousemen’s Union boasted 900 members, while a splinter union – the Bradford Woolsorters’ Society – had a further 312 members.48 Nevertheless, for the large numbers of woolsorters in and around Bradford in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, steady employment was by no means guaranteed. In addition, from the 1880s onwards more parttime workers were taken on, with squeezed manufacturers demanding that fewer employees achieve increased productivity.49

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The Making of Modern Anthrax, 1875–1920

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Figure I.1: Three unidentified woolsorters working on a bale of Persian mohair, c. 1900. Underneath the sorting table can be seen a broad funnel. This housed a fan designed to draw the dust away from the sorters, which was the subject of much debate among those drafting safety regulations (see Chapter 4). The sorters’ garments were known as ‘brats’. Image reproduced from F. Eurich, ‘The History of Anthrax in the Wool Industry of Bradford, and of its Control’, Lancet, 9 January 1926, pp. 107–10, on p. 107; with permission from Elsevier.

Woolsorters’ disease was therefore a significant concern to those employed in the industry as well as their families and other dependents. It is therefore natural to examine its occurrence in the setting of Bradford, particularly given the socio-political composition of the town, with its widely read local newspapers, its active medical community and institutions, and its major role in the emergent labour movement from the early 1890s. We will ultimately see just how far the relationship between Bradford and anthrax travelled, but we begin in the town itself, where some of the principal British anthrax experts carried out their research. The first chapter focuses on the approaches of two of these: John Henry Bell and Frederick William Eurich.

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