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This engraving was used to illustrate a poem entitled ‘Royal Address of Cadwallader ap-Tudor ap-Edwards ap-Vaughan, Water-King of Southwark’, which was a scathing comment on water pollution in the River Thames. The Thames was the main water supply for London. In Cruikshank’s picture, the crowd chant “Give us clean water” and “We shall get the cholera”. A reference to the deadly disease that had struck London in 1832, the year the image and poem were printed. The apparent link of a heavily polluted Thames, the water supply and a cholera outbreak predates John Snow’s theory of the disease by some years. It would be the third major London outbreak, in 1854, that would provide the clear evidence to support Snow’s waterborne theory. However, the prevailing belief that disease was caused by foul-smelling vapours from rotting waste – known as miasma theory and referred to in both the illustration and the poem – would stubbornly hold sway for some years after Snow’s discovery.

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Glossary: print

Pictorial works produced by transferring images by means of a matrix such as a plate, block, or screen, using any of various printing processes. When emphasizing the individual printed image, use "impressions." Avoid the controversial expression "original prints," except in reference to discussions of the expression's use. If prints are neither "reproductive prints" nor "popular prints," use just "prints."

Glossary: caricature

A representation that exaggerates certain features or characteristics to humorous effect.

Glossary: satire

An artistic form where human actions and errors are mocked.