The Conquest of Water
The Advent of Health in the Industrial AgeBook - 1989
"The preoccupation with water is, according to Jean-Pierre Goubert, one of the subdivisions of the religion of progress. . . . Goubert's research is entirely interdisciplinary, and his procedure is highly original. The first in his field, the author has at all points built up a study which never departs from its faithfulness to texts, documents and facts."--From the introduction
This book is the first major study of the social and cultural conquest of water during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Jean-Pierre Goubert discloses the changing meanings of everyday reality as he explores the transition from water-scarce cultures, in which water was a sacred symbol, to the secularization and then the mass democratization of the water supply. He imaginatively discusses almost every area of life in which water plays a role, using a variety of sources from advertising to government records to interviews. Goubert examines the development of a body of scientific and technical knowledge about water and the range of water policies designed to prevent mass typhoid epidemics and to raise health standards in general. He demonstrates how the new role of water in the preservation of health was vigorously promoted by education, medicine, and the media. Finally, he makes it clear that water has conquered us as much as we have conquered it, in the sense that our civilization has been transformed by water and has become dependent on vast and immediately available quantities of that crucial substance for both personal and industrial use.