North East Connected

Talk reveals how Sunderland dealt with infectious disease almost 200 years ago

A mysterious and devastating new disease emerges from Asia. “The Science” is divided about the causes and the treatment.  Politicians lie, deceive and deny. The business community prefer profit to people. Life is never the same again…

This isn’t 2020 but 1831, and the unexplained disease was cholera not Covid-19.

Former Director of Continuing Education at the University of Sunderland, Stuart Miller, will discuss the arrival of the infection in Sunderland and its devastating impact on the city, as part of the annual Community Lecture Series.

Stuart says: “One of the many claims to fame of Sunderland is that it was the first place in the UK to experience the so-called Asiatic Cholera”.

Cholera was one of the key triggers of public health reform in Britain. However, it also proved controversial when there was an attempt at a cover-up at the time on Wearside.

Stuart explains: “Popular panic prevailed. Businessmen preferred their own interests to those of society. Confusing messages emanated from “the science”. Politicians manipulated the issue in their own interests. Medical men squabbled incessantly over causes and treatment.”

Stuart is a former University of Sunderland lecturer who still teaches part-time for the Workers’ Educational Association and has written and co-authored numerous books on national and local history.

His talk will take place online, on Wednesday June 30 at 2.30pm.

To register for This unpleasant affair: Cholera in Sunderland.  Book at

The second lecture in this year’s Community Lecture series Writing historical fiction set in Sunderland at the end of WW1– Glenda Young, takes place on Wednesday July 14th at 2.30pm.  To book go to

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