John Libbey Eurotext

Environnement, Risques & Santé


Urbanisation and health over two centuries: the 1770s to the 1970s Volume 14, issue 4, Juillet-Août 2015

Université Lumière Lyon 2
Laboratoire de recherche historique Rhône-Alpes
14, avenue Berthelot
69363 Lyon
Cedex 07
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  • Key words: city planning, environment, medicine history, public health, urban health services
  • DOI : 10.1684/ers.2015.0792
  • Page(s) : 299-304
  • Published in: 2015

This article offers an interpretation of the movement over two centuries from the consideration of “medical topographies” in Ancien Régime France to the institutionalisation of a special field of public policy concerning the “environment”, separate from health. Despite profound changes in aetiological knowledge and the development of medicine as a field focused on biology and technical advances, the fundamental characteristics of the links between environment and health, as viewed by practitioners, did not change: attention to the benefits of nature, to fresh air, and to monitoring water quality. Air pollution, which played a role in the creation of the first ministry of the environment, has been the topic around which interdisciplinary analysis has developed, linking the urban environment and urban life styles to health, understood in its broadest sense.